Control Orders Take Another Blow: Libyan Cartoonist Freed (Detainee DD)


A political cartoon by Ziyad Ali Hashem (Detainee DD)The news that Ziyad Ali Hashem, a control order detainee in the UK (previously identified only as DD) has had his control order lifted elicits two particular responses from those who have been aware of his case since he was first deprived of his liberty in November 2005: firstly, relief that his ordeal is at an end; and secondly, indignation that it took so long.

The use of control orders — a form of house arrest for men described as “terror suspects” but held without charge or trial on the basis of secret evidence — is a terrible aberration in a country that claims to respect the rule of law. Since last June, when the Law Lords accepted a European ruling that the use of secret evidence infringed the men’s right to a fair trial, the entire system appears to be crumbling, although, as I explained in an article for the Guardian last week, following a judge’s decision to quash control orders against two men, including a joint British/Libyan national, the government is not accepting defeat gracefully.

Shot through with opportunities for the government to rely on poor or downright risible intelligence, without being adequately challenged, the entire system is unjustifiable, as was revealed over the Christmas period, when another Libyan, Faraj Hassan, also had his control order dismissed (see an interview here, conducted after he had been imprisoned for five years, but before a control order was imposed). In a court transcript, it was revealed that the British intelligence services had relied on transcripts of taped conversations that had been translated from Arabic into Italian, and then into English, and that along the way elementary errors had been made that would be laughable were their consequences not so severe. One striking example concerned reports of a discussion about “the man from the Gulf,” which in fact referred to “the man with the Golf” — a description of Hassan’s car, a VW Golf, and not some shady, coded conversation about a terrorist.

Moreover, although the whole system is corrupt, it is particularly inexplicable with reference to the Libyan detainees, whose only reason for being in the UK is through their opposition to Colonel Gaddafi, the former pariah who is now a friend to the West, because of his professed cooperation in the “War on Terror,” and the oil that we are now free to exploit.

As I explained in an article for the Guardian last year, the Libyans’ “only ‘crime’ was to seek asylum at the wrong time.” At the time, I referred to DD, stating that he was unfortunate enough to arrive in Britain in 2004, “around the same time that Tony Blair was in Tripoli, meeting Gaddafi for the first time and talking of the ‘new relationship’ that had become possible since the regime renounced its WMD programme.”

To mark Ziyad’s freedom from the control order that has blighted his life — and that of his family — for the last four years, I reproduce below an enlightening (and slightly edited) interview with him, conducted by former Guantánamo prisoner Moazzam Begg in 2008, and also reproduce some of the many sharp and insightful political cartoons that he has drawn over the last five years to sharpen his resolve and to tell the world about the hypocrisy of treating opponents of Gaddafi as “terrorists.”

Moazzam Begg Interviews Detainee DD, 8 April 2008

Detainee DD was arrested in Britain in October 2005. Since that time he has been detained without trial or charge, fighting deportation to Libya, where he faces the threat of further imprisonment, torture or death. Initially held in Britain’s Secret Guantánamo, HMP Long Lartin, he was later released under a control order. A talented artist, whilst in prison DD took to expressing his despair, anger and frustration at the government’s current approach to human rights in his satirical cartoons. At the time of this interview, he was 32 years old.

MB: Can you tell us why you left Libya?

DD: I left Libya because I opposed the regime of Gaddafi. I came here as a political asylum seeker. My opposition to the Gaddafi regime was purely political; it did not involve the use of any sort of violence or force. This point is acknowledged by the British authorities too. The Libyan government has sentenced me to execution by hanging. When I sought asylum, I did not have any documentation to prove that such a sentence has been passed on me. However, now when the British authorities decided to deport me, they wrote to the Libyan Government, asking them to clarify their intentions regarding me. The Libyan Foreign Ministry wrote back stating that, should this person be handed over to the Libyan government, he shall be sentenced to death. I have this document with me now.

A political cartoon by Ziyad Ali Hasem (Detainee DD)

MB: What did you expect and hope from the British authorities at that time?

DD: When I sought asylum here, I gave them access to all my personal information; my name, address, even my thoughts, what I do, everything. I remember on my arrival at Heathrow airport, on the same day, I didn’t leave the airport; the MI5 sat with me and asked me some questions. I too asked whether my proposed political activities in opposition to Libya were against any British laws. They replied that the country is open to you for this purpose. They now view me as a threat to the country. If I intended to engage myself in any such activities, I would not have given them files of information about myself. I would have stayed undercover and done what I intended to do. My point is that all my files are very, very clear that my activities are purely political and focused only against the Libyan regime.

MB: But since then diplomatic relations between the two countries have become stronger and that changes everything. When did you seek asylum, upon first arrival?

DD: Yes, upon my first arrival.

MB: Was your application successful?

DD: I was refused at the first instance but was successful when this decision was challenged in the court. The court immediately gave judgment in my favour to stay in the UK. However, this judgment has now been completely taken away from me, my children and my wife too. It is surprising, as my wife has had a residence permit for Spain for about fifteen years She studied and grew up there. So my nationality is Libyan, hers is Spanish, but my children have no nationality! When I ask them, “Are my children British?” they say, No.” “Are they Libyan?” They say, “No.” When I ask for a decision, they say we have not yet decided.

MB: How old are the children?

DD: One is three and the other is four. They have no passports, they have no ID cards. They cannot travel outside the UK, visiting relatives etc. is not possible. Although theoretically, they have a choice whether to stay or leave, they are compelled to stay here, because once they leave the UK, they cannot return back. And incidentally, I hold Libyan nationality, whereas Libyan law states that marriage between a Libyan national and a non-Libyan national must be first sanctioned by the Libyan government. Failure to do so results in termination of the Libyan spouse’s nationality. So from a practical perspective, I don’t have a nationality; neither Libyan nor any other.

MB: Strange indeed! What is your educational background?

DD: I studied till college then took courses in many fields of computing and IT. I have been working in this field for approximately 14, 15 years now.

MB: When were you arrested?

DD: They arrested me on 2 October 2005. They broke into the house while we were asleep at 5 am. The whole area was alarmed. I was hurt and shaken and taken away. I did not see my wife or children. They then took my wife and children to London. For three days, they plundered our home in Cardiff. Many of my belongings were stolen during this period. Then when my wife came back with the children after three days, they didn’t allow her to enter the house. They said that news of the raid had spread in the neighbourhood and that they were afraid that racist groups may target the family, so it was unsafe for them to enter the house. So instead they left her in the street with the children. They did not offer her any support at all. My wife had to appoint a solicitor. She was then put in a hostel. She spent approximately two and a half months in that hostel, which was mixed.

MB: When they took you, were you mistreated?

DD: Compared to my other friends I was treated very well. Others have been taken in such a violent manner, it cannot be described. They have been trampled upon, beaten, some of them have had broken bones. Brother Muhammad had a rib broken, he still complains of pain in his chest. I, however, was very keen to co-operate. Once they chained me, I quickly left with them. Despite this, I was handled violently and forcefully. Upon arrival at the prison, it is the prison doctor’s duty to check you for injuries etc and report everything. It is however strange that on our arrival at the prison, the doctor simply asked whether we suffered from diabetes or high blood pressure. He did not even look at our bodies. This was to prevent incrimination of the police.

MB: When were you first informed of the reason for your arrest? Did they in the beginning tell you why you were arrested?

DD: No they didn’t. They didn’t even provide a translator and I hardly understood them. They asked if there were explosives in my house. I said no. Then, jokingly, I said you can even check the children’s nappies. This made the interrogator laugh too.

MB: So when were you provided with an interpreter?

DD: I didn’t see an interpreter until I was inside the prison. They tore my house apart. I had no idea why this was happening, nor did I understand anything.

MB: Do you know under which laws you were arrested?

DD: I didn’t know anything until I was visited by the interpreter in the prison.

MB: Can you explain what effect these laws have had on your life?

DD: Yes, I have reached many conclusions. Firstly, the claim that this is a democratic or free country is hollow and void of substance. Here, democracy is applicable only to a certain section of the population. This is a police state; everything here takes place covertly. The MI5 and MI6 control everything. The judge, if I can be excused to say, is a brainless person. They put in front of him 3,000 papers and he simply passes judgment without any deliberation whatsoever over the case and even without hearing us. If I can give an example, they seized from me an A to Z map booklet which I used for tourism work. They said that you were involved in the plot to bomb the Atlantic airliners. I was in fact arrested 13 months before the Atlantic airliners’ case took place.

The A to Z maps were used as classified evidence against me. When the judge passed judgment, it stated that A to Z maps were found in his possession, which may have been used for terrorist activities. I had A to Z maps for London, Wolverhampton, Manchester, Cardiff …

MB: Then you are a very big terrorist!

DD: Supposedly, yes! And the London A to Z maps have markings on all the tourist centres and agencies because I used to work in the tourism industry and I used these for my work. The third point which I would like to point out, is when Tony Blair said that Libya has improved and described Libya as a democratic country, we prisoners interpreted that to mean that democratic Britain had actually stooped to the same level as Libya. Both dictators look at each other and they feel that both are at the same level so that now there is no difference between the so-called democracy in the UK and the Libyan dictatorship.

A political cartoon by Ziyad Ali Hashem (Detainee DD)

At the moment, in Libya, people are imprisoned, without charge. In Britain, we too have imprisonment without charge. In Libya, they use classified evidence. We cannot have access to this nor do we have any knowledge of it. In the UK, they too use classified evidence. In Libya, you may have evidence but you are not allowed a lawyer to defend you. It is very similar here too.

We are provided with a lawyer known as the special advocate. This lawyer has never met me, never seen me, nor does he know anything about me. It would be naïve to expect this lawyer to defend me, if he does not know what I have or haven’t done. For example when he (the lawyer) is told DD killed a fox in the forest, how does he defend me? He can deny that I killed the fox, while I in fact did not, in which case he is correct; or he can deny that I killed the fox while in fact I may have killed it, in which case he would be wrong. How can he decide without seeing the evidence and talking to me? Apart from these there are many other points that I have found bizarre about this government.

MB: And the new control order legislation — this was non-existent before and now you find yourself under it?

DD: Yes, this control order is applied only on the Muslims here and against nationals of countries that have good relations with Britain. Libya from the very beginning has been a bitter enemy of the UK. They have supported the IRA, they killed the British policewoman [Yvonne Fletcher], they blew up the aeroplane over Lockerbie, the Libyan regime has taken part in and supported many of the terrorist groups. They have killed many of their opponents inside the UK — they killed Mustapha Ramadhan from BBC Radio. They also killed Abu Zayd from the Salvation Front opposition in London. This all happened in the UK.

Ultimately, the one who has power and petrol rules. The moment Gaddafi stops the supply of petrol, the laws of the UK change. For example, when the Muslims called for an option to be governed by Islamic Law in some limited spheres of their civil and personal lives, there was an unending uproar. However, anti- terror laws change weekly. This is ironic when they say we have laws that have been around for three centuries and now myself, my wife and children are under a control order. We have to wear tags on our wrists, very similar to the watch you are wearing. Every time I want to leave, I must call the police from this tag and inform them that I need to go out.

Over the last three years my children have memorised what I say. Once my young daughter was playing with the tag and called the police and repeated to them what I usually tell them. Despite the fact that only information given by myself can be registered, they believed her and this was also recorded against me. My daughters have become so paranoid now that if anyone knocks on the door forcefully, they cry out, “Police, police!” When they see a police car, they are frightened.

MB: So despite this length of time you do not yet know what accusations have been levelled against you? I mean, is there a specific allegation?

DD: The accusation is an open one. Using legislation from 1981, which applied to the IRA, is all lumped into it, supposed links with ETA, Venezuela, Nigeria — the lot. The only thing that matters is that the accusations should be pleasing to Gaddafi.

MB: If you are deported to Libya, what do you think will happen?

DD: Like I told you I have been sentenced to death and this has been made official by the Libyan Foreign Ministry. The Libyan official who has issued this statement is responsible for relations between Europe and Libya. His name is Abdul Atif Al-Obeidi. He is part of the Libyan regime. His statement read that “DD will be sentenced to death upon being handed over to Libya under Rule 71,” or something like that.

MB: When you were first arrested, which prison were you held in?

DD: In Long Lartin and, initially, without representation or anything — being moved from bed to bed.

MB: Can you please explain what the regime is like in Long Lartin?

DD: All of us who had not yet been charged were placed together in a special unit.

MB: In this country, anyone who has not been charged is innocent until proven guilty.

DD: I am very, very afraid of my acquaintance with some of the inmates. I recall the case of one of the Algerian brothers who has now been sent back to Algeria. The evidence used against him was that he was associated with another person. The Algerian brother swears that he only met this alleged associate in prison. And I make no secret of it — I am also expecting the same because I have got to know the Jordanian brothers, the Algerian brothers, Abu Qatada etc. in prison. The first time I ever met them in my life was inside the walls of the prison.

MB: This is very familiar to Guantánamo. We were accused of knowing so and so although we had only just met them in prison.

DD: Yes, but Guantánamo is well-known while the prisons here are not. In fact, I believe that it is worse here than it is in Guantánamo because it is a well-known fact that prisoners are held in Guantánamo without charge, while here people think that we are only held if charged and due legal process is adhered to.

At the moment, in the prison, we are banned from relaying anything to the outside. It is funny that on the inside of our handsets there is a notice which states that all calls are monitored except calls to legal representatives. It is so ironic that we then hear of the MP who was bugged by the MI5. I found that on more than one occasion the Home Office already knew about things I had discussed with my legal representatives in confidence.

MB: Can you describe the cell you were living in?

DD: The cell spanned about 1 metre by 1.5 metres. It had a WC facility. This is where I lived, washed and prayed. They would at times come in with dogs to check for drugs. They know we don’t take drugs, but they only want to insult us. We are not allowed to send anything. They sometimes allow us to keep a copy of the Qur’an. At times, they lock these cells up for up to three days without letting us out. When we ask them why, they say that [they] found weapons with one on the inmates or that one of the inmates pointed a gun at the guards. Once I sarcastically told them that I was the one with the gun, I plead guilty, and that they should now open the door. I did this to prove a point, that not everything they say is true.

MB: Can you talk us through your daily prison routine?

DD: We are Muslims, in sha’Allah, we believe in Allah and we hope that all this shall be placed in our scale of good deeds. We spend our time in prayer. We encourage and give moral support to each other until we overcome this crisis. And every crisis is eventually solved by supplication of the Muslims and prayer. Many people, even non-Muslims, are sympathetic towards us. We find this very encouraging and uplifting for our morale. This helps us be more patient inside the cells.

MB: Were you allowed visits and calls?

DD: Visits are not allowed except for my wife, children and legal representative. The British press wanted to visit me so I lodged an application for a visit but there was no response. My brother travelled secretly from Libya to visit me but he was not allowed either. They said there is no evidence that we were siblings, despite the fact that we both shared the same family names.

MB: What did they require to establish that he was your brother?

DD: They wanted him to hand over his passport, two photographs and his full address in Libya and a signed statement that he is my brother. It was obvious that these were asked for by the Home Office. They said they would grant permission after one month. My brother only had three days and he wanted to keep the visit a secret from the Libyan authorities. Eventually, he returned to Libya and we were unable to meet.

MB: Have you received letters from outside?

DD: Yes I have received letters and, like I said, these are very encouraging for us. We have received letters from both native English people and others too. Many people have complained to higher authorities but there is nothing they can really do for us due to the current policy.

MB: What about the other inmates? How was your relationship with them?

DD: To tell you the truth, more than 80 percent of them were very sympathetic and sincere towards us.

MB: Are these non-Muslims?

DD: Yes, non-Muslims. For example, in sports etc., they like to choose us to be part of their teams. Our friendship with them is so good that at times the security guard has intervened to separate us. And that reminds me of a security guard. He did not allow me to send out cartoons that I had drawn to my solicitor. I asked him, in the presence of witnesses (an officer and other inmates), as to why he did this when it was perfectly legal. He replied saying that the cartoons I had drawn were not legal because they were insulting to Tony Blair. So I asked why is the Times then allowed to publish such cartoons daily? He did not have an answer. I then through an interpreter told the guard that I wanted to challenge the reason he had given in court.

The day I left the prison (17 May 2007) at about 1pm, I had written on my white board some messages such as “Welcome To Guantánamo UK” etc. Every prisoner has his own personal board in his room on which he may write anything. Two officers came into my room and ordered me to take down the board. I asked if the board together with its contents was legal. They replied that it was legal, but they still wanted me to remove it. I asked why other detainees were not ordered to do the same. They said that they (the other non-Muslim) detainees had the right to write what they wanted but not us (Muslims). I told them that this was racist and he said, “Yes, that’s correct, we are racist.” I asked if I could raise a case against him. He said, yes, I should go ahead, but if the board isn’t taken down by noon we’ll make a case against you.

MB: What do you think led to your release from prison?

DD: Not all judges are the same. Some of them do actually use their intellect when they decide cases. When the Home Office put forward our cases, i.e. the Libyans, it was all a matter of trade with Gaddafi — his fuel in exchange for individuals he wanted. There was no substance to these cases at all.

The A to Z maps they brought forward as evidence was literally complete nonsense. We actually won the case on a conditional basis that we would be returned (to Libya) should our safety in Libya be secured. There are numerous international bodies that assess and report on the political situation in Libya daily. There are more than 900 people that have been detained in Libya. Nobody knows their whereabouts. Some have been missing for over 20 years now. I know one that is missing since 1984.

Gaddafi killed 1200 people in 1996. He supported a massacre in 2007 where three people were killed and tens of people wounded. This happened on 1 January 2007. Some of the prisoners from the prison in Libya where the massacre took place called Al-Jazeera from the prison and reported the massacre. As a result of this, since 1 January 2007 to date, access to all prisons in Libya has been shut down. Family visits, visits from lawyers, all correspondence and phone calls have been suspended. This is collective punishment. So with all this going on, how can a judge conclude that Libya is a safe country for us to be returned to?

Secondly, Gaddafi has promised to reform Libya and to become a democracy, like the UK. Although he has promised today, he could easily revoke it tomorrow. If we are returned, it is we who will have to suffer the consequences. They should wait a few years and see that a democracy is actually implemented before rushing us back to Libya. We face serious problems in our countries. If we are not liked by the UK for any reason, we can be asked to leave to another country, but we should not be handed over to Gaddafi on flimsy promises that he will not torture us. We do not want to spend the rest of our lives in prison.

A political cartoon by Ziyad Ali Hashem (Detainee DD)

The British government wants to return us to Libya on the reassurance that we will stand ordinary trial. Why should we stand trial when we have not committed any crime? It is Gaddafi who has committed the crimes in Libya. The whole of Libya has suffered at his hands. I will give an example of my own self. My father was imprisoned twice in Libya. He was tortured so severely that his torturers broke his leg. My brother till today is in mental hospital. He lost his senses after being electrocuted by high voltage during his torture. So how can they return me to Libya based on guarantees by Gaddafi that he won’t torture me? And why do they want to send me back anyway? Are my activities not legal? If not, then I am ready to account for everything.

MB: Can you briefly explain how life has been following your release from prison under the control order?

DD: I cannot do anything. I am not allowed to work or study any course that involves the use of computers — virtually every educational institute now uses these. I, my wife or children are not allowed to use computers, mobile phones, internet facilities or telephones except the special land line phone installed in my home. I cannot call 999 emergency numbers from outside my home. I cannot even go to the local police station without giving 24 hours notice to the Immigration authorities and acquiring prior approval from them.

They have placed me far away from community. There is no hospital that my wife and children can visit. There is no bank nearby, although I am not allowed to use banking facilities. The area where I have been placed is full of graveyards — there are more than 20 graveyards nearby. The house where I have been placed has been derelict for many, many years. Most of the basic facilities are non- existent. There is no cooker, many of the lights don’t work, the doors are insecure and some have even fallen. I have asked for maintenance and repair work to be carried out many times but they hardly reply and if I’m lucky, they turn up after months. I have had to do most of the repairs myself, in order to make the place habitable. They do not give us cash, only vouchers which are usable in Asda only. I cannot shop anywhere else besides Asda. So for example, if I want to buy halal meat or certain things for the children, I cannot use these vouchers.

MB: Are you not allowed to carry cash?

DD: I am allowed to carry cash but they give me a very small amount every month. This is so small that it is not enough to cover simple expenses such as postage, transport etc. All I have are these Asda vouchers but Asda does not sell everything. They sell food products, a small line of clothing and few house wares. I believe that these vouchers are only used to make me feel subdued. I wait every month for them to deliver these vouchers to me. They come arrogantly and give them to me.

MB: And you have no right to work?

DD: I am not allowed to work. I have pleaded many times to be allowed to work so that I can spend on my children and improve our living conditions, but they have always refused. Even my wife cannot work. My wife and children have no identity documents, even though both my children were born in the UK. My children only have their birth certificates They have no passports or residence permits. They are alien nationals. I too have no driving licence or national insurance number. When I asked for the national insurance number, I was told that I do not have rights to acquire this number. My means have been so much restricted that it is as if I am still in prison. All I can really do is go to the library but even that I am afraid to do because they might accuse me of using a computer or something. I spend most of my time in the mosque, which is about five km away. It takes me an hour and five minutes to walk there and about 25 minutes by bus.

MB: Are there any limitations as to when you can leave your house?

DD: Yes, I can only leave my house between 7 am and 7 pm. Once I was on the bus and it broke down. I was afraid that I wouldn’t make it home in time and explained my situation to the bus driver. He was alarmed and all the same very sympathetic too. He gave me his contact details and also signed a short statement stating that the bus had broken down and any delay in me reaching home was due to a bus fault. He said he would be willing to testify too should he be required to do so.

When I go to the mosque or anyone comes to visit me I am afraid to take off my socks because that would expose the electronic tag around my ankle and fellow worshipers and visitors would think that I am a criminal.

MB: I recall you saying that the Immigration Authorities came to your house and said that your house was an extension of the prison. Can you elaborate on this?

DD: Yes, I was visited by some of my friends from London on my release from prison. Officers in plain clothes came to my house and, in a violent and forceful manner, started to ask my visitors to produce identification documents. My visitors were alarmed and frightened at this because the British authorities could easily incriminate them for association with me. One of my visitors asked the officer in plain clothes if he had a court warrant or if he could show some ID. The officer had none of these with him. My friend then asked what would happen should he refuse to produce his identification documents. The officer replied that this house is considered an extension of the Home Office prison. And I was held here because I was released on bail pending case decision. The officer said that it was their job to keep a record of all those who enter and exit this building. He also said that if you refuse to produce your ID you will be arrested and taken to the police station to produce your documents.

Many of the homes the Immigration Services visit and search are totally wrecked by them. The whole house is turned upside down. They deliberately break things and when we complain about this, they refuse to accept liability. Sometimes they take items away for further inspection, saying that they will be returned in a week’s time but they don’t. They just come in and take anything. Once the search officer picked up my earphones and started to examine them. I said, these are simple earphones, what are you looking for? Even the accompanying police escort said that this was ridiculous.

MB: What is the effect of all this on your children and family?

DD: My wife has become chronically depressed. She has been on medication for a while but has had to leave it because of its adverse side effects. Myself, I cannot sleep at night and I have to take medication to help me sleep. I suffer from insomnia and nightmares. I have been to see the doctor about this and he has now doubled my dose from 70mg to 140mg. My wife has the same problem too and it is getting worse as this tragedy prolongs. My eldest daughter is old enough to understand most of what is happening. When there is a loud knock on the door, she gets very frightened and runs shouting, “Police, police.” She is so scared that at times she even soils her clothes. They come knocking at 6.30am in the morning. At times, there is up to 20 of them and always a minimum of four.

MB: They come without any notice or warning?

DD: Yes, without any warning or notice. They just start knocking at the door and you have to open. It is strange that all the police wear bulletproof vests while the interpreter is unprotected in plain clothes. This is because he is Arab of Iraqi origin. I told them that if my house is so dangerous then why is the interpreter not protected? He too should be provided with the same vest. The officer replied by saying, “Are you racist?” I said, “No, you are racist. Just as you are concerned for your own security, why don’t you have the same concern for the security of the Iraqi interpreter?” He laughed and said that you are both Arabs, you both know each other etc, and just brushed the matter aside. My children are now scared of leaving the home. Whenever we want to go out they say, “We don’t want to go.” This fear has confined them to the house. My daughter doesn’t even like to go to the local nursery.

MB: How do you keep your morale high?

DD: This is a good question. I will tell you what raises my morale, but please try and understand my answer properly. When I want to boost my morale I think of Guantánamo Bay, and the prisoners there. Comparing my situation to theirs gives me a great sense of gratitude and appreciation.

A political cartoon by Ziyad Ali Hashem (Detainee DD)

MB: What has been your experience with SIAC (the Special Immigration Appeals Commission)? What do you make of the hearings that took place in the SIAC?

DD: This Commission is like an illegitimate child, it has no lineage in the field of justice. It only listens to the Home Office’s side of the case and we are denied proper representation. They frequently use classified evidence. Before the classified evidence is brought forward, my lawyer and I are escorted out of the courtroom, the door is locked in front of us so that we don’t hear anything, then the evidence is produced before the Commission.

MB: Not even your own lawyer knows what this evidence is?

DD: No, not even my own lawyer knows about the classified evidence. Neither am I allowed to meet or say hello to my lawyer. This is probably worse than Libya. Although they don’t have lawyers, the individual can at least represent himself. Here we are represented but we don’t know who the lawyer is or how we are going to be represented. The Commission is like a gang of thugs, they close the door and listen to evidence against us, then they have discussions based on that evidence, then they make decisions without giving us a fair chance to defend ourselves.

Nobody, neither the lawyers nor the judges, know the boundaries of the law. The law is constantly altered and changed as the case progresses. I don’t know when this control order will cease because the case cannot be determined from the outset. At every stage of the process the law is freshly tailored to suit the Home Office. You asked what is the effect of this court?

MB: Yes, I did.

DD: The effect of this court is felt in our countries. I have many relatives and family in Libya — about 1,500 people. They all know what has happened to me and how the UK has treated me. Their opinion of the UK has totally changed. They view the UK as a colonialist power that harbours hatred against us. Tony Blair and his government are only concerned about the petrol wealth in our countries, they have no concern for democracy as they claim, or for the people that suffer under the Libyan dictatorship.

A political cartoon by Ziyad Ali Hashem (Detainee DD)

MB: What did you receive from the Muslims of Britain, in terms of moral and other forms of support?

DD: There was much sympathy from most but not all of the Muslims, their hearts and supplications were with us. I fully appreciate that some of the Muslims are unable to offer the same support as others. I understand and accept that this is either due to their fear of being accused of being co-associates of us detainees or because they are simply unaware of our cases. They are quite rightly excused for not being able to extend their support because the UK has set a very frightening example in incriminating people by association. Despite the lack of support we shall nevertheless carry on our work of exposing the abuses taking place in our country. Our children and womenfolk are killed, our youth are imprisoned, so we have no choice but to speak out against this.

MB: Have you received any moral or other support from the non-Muslim members of the British community?

DD: Generally when we speak to them they are very sensitive and sympathetic towards us. They disapprove of what the British government is doing to us. They will help us with whatever means they possess. However, the media is in the hands of the government and it is they who are defaming us, and our campaign. And sadly, we do not have the means to stand up to the mighty media campaign they are waging against us. They accuse us of things we haven’t done. We in fact do not pose any type of threat to this country and the UK knows this. We do not agree with the bombings that took place in the UK or in other parts of Europe. We could never support the killing of innocent civilians. What has happened was totally wrong. However, it is part of the government’s political agenda that these bombings be used to focus their attention on us. Consequently, it is due to these sad events that we find ourselves in prisons.

MB: Is there anything you would like to say to those reading this, or is there anything that you would like them to do for you?

DD: The Prophet (may peace be upon him) said, “Do not consider insignificant even the smallest of good deeds.” So every person, whether Muslim or non-Muslim, can support us by means of a good word, be it a letter or voice in the form of protest against the government condemning its unjust policies, or advice, or publicising our plea. Every person is capable of helping us and seeing the truth if he wants to. Anyone willing to sincerely help us, Allah will guide them. We are in need of people to speak out on our behalf, people to stand in solidarity with us and to support us.

You are now called for by Allah, and by Humanity, they are in desperate need of your help. If you stand back and do nothing then your silence in such difficult times will be recorded in history. So once again I appeal to all you listeners to break the silence, be it with an influential letter, article, protest, or through condemning and denouncing the government’s policies. Do anything you can to help those who are held indefinitely without charge. Indefinite detention without charge is found only in dictator countries like Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt etc. If this country is to maintain democracy we must put a stop to indefinite detention without charge. The government should not be allowed to use 7/7 [the London bombings on 7 July 2005] as a pretext to justify indefinite detention or to buy our silence. Only because the real culprits of 7/7 have not been found, the government is using us as scapegoats so that the people can extinguish their anger on us.

Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK). To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on Facebook and Twitter). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in January 2010, details about the new documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, and launched in October 2009), and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.

For other articles dealing with Belmarsh, control orders, deportation bail, deportations and extraditions, see Deals with dictators undermined by British request for return of five Guantánamo detainees (August 2007), Britain’s Guantánamo: the troubling tale of Tunisian Belmarsh detainee Hedi Boudhiba, extradited, cleared and abandoned in Spain (August 2007), Guantánamo as house arrest: Britain’s law lords capitulate on control orders (November 2007), The Guantánamo Britons and Spain’s dubious extradition request (December 2007), Britain’s Guantánamo: control orders renewed, as one suspect is freed (February 2008), Spanish drop “inhuman” extradition request for Guantánamo Britons (March 2008), UK government deports 60 Iraqi Kurds; no one notices (March 2008), Repatriation as Russian Roulette: Will the Two Algerians Freed from Guantánamo Be Treated Fairly? (July 2008), Abu Qatada: Law Lords and Government Endorse Torture (February 2009), Ex-Guantánamo prisoner refused entry into UK, held in deportation centre (February 2009), Home Secretary ignores Court decision, kidnaps bailed men and imprisons them in Belmarsh (February 2009), Britain’s insane secret terror evidence (March 2009), Torture taints all our lives (published in the Guardian’s Comment is free), Britain’s Guantánamo: Calling For An End To Secret Evidence, Five Stories From Britain’s Guantánamo: (1) Detainee Y, Five Stories From Britain’s Guantánamo: (2) Detainee BB, Five Stories From Britain’s Guantánamo: (3) Detainee U, Five Stories From Britain’s Guantánamo: (4) Hussain Al-Samamara, Five Stories From Britain’s Guantánamo: (5) Detainee Z, Britain’s Guantánamo: Fact or Fiction? and URGENT APPEAL on British terror laws: Get your MP to support Diane Abbott’s Early Day Motion on the use of secret evidence (all April 2009), and Taking liberties with our justice system and Death in Libya, betrayal in the West (both for the Guardian), Law Lords Condemn UK’s Use of Secret Evidence And Control Orders (June 2009), Miliband Shows Leadership, Reveals Nothing About Torture To Parliamentary Committee (June 2009), Britain’s Torture Troubles: What Tony Blair Knew (June 2009), Seven years of madness: the harrowing tale of Mahmoud Abu Rideh and Britain’s anti-terror laws, Would you be able to cope?: Letters by the children of control order detainee Mahmoud Abu Rideh, Control order detainee Mahmoud Abu Rideh to be allowed to leave the UK (all June 2009), Testing control orders and Dismantle the secret state (for the Guardian), UK government issues travel document to control order detainee Mahmoud Abu Rideh after horrific suicide attempt (July 2009), Secret evidence in the case of the North West 10 “terror suspects” (August 2009), Letting go of control orders (for the Guardian, September 2009), Another Blow To Britain’s Crumbling Control Order Regime (September 2009), UK Judge Approves Use of Secret Evidence in Guantánamo Case (November 2009), Calling Time On The Use Of Secret Evidence In The UK (December 2009), Compensation for control orders is a distraction (for the Guardian, January 2010).

5 Responses

  1. faraj faraj hassan alsaaadi says...

    i am one of ziad hashim friends from long lartin prison, i spent a year with him in long lartin. i also was under control order, we went through the samething, i am so happy that he is now free.
    well done ziad

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Faraj. A real pleasure to hear from you.

  3. Revolution in Egypt – and the Hypocrisy of the US and the West « Dandelion Salad says...

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  4. Revolution in Libya: Protestors Respond to Gaddafi’s Murderous Backlash with Remarkable Courage; US and UK Look Like the Hypocrites They Are | NO LIES RADIO says...

    […] of the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees the right to a fair trial, the Libyans had their control orders dropped, either because the disclosure of any information would have demonstrated that they were pawns in a […]

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    […] of the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees the right to a fair trial, the Libyans had their control orders dropped, either because the disclosure of any information would have demonstrated that they were pawns in a […]

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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