My name is “Faraj Hassan” born in Libya in 1980. I was detained on the 16th May 2002 at my brother’s home in London; two months after arriving in this country. I am a Muslim from Libya, the country whose government’s name was recently taken off the terrorist list & was believed to be one of the axes of evil.
As everyone knows 9/11 was one of the biggest attacks to be attributed to the Al-Qaida network against America and it started the ‘Global war against Islam.” The beginning of that was marked by detaining Muslims, detaining those who practice their religion, have large amounts of money in their bank accounts, or who have travelled to certain Muslim countries.
I personally consider myself one of the victims of this ‘war’ against Islam, and have now been kept in prison “hostage” for more than four years and four months without any reason.
The day I was arrested by several officers from Scotland Yard’s special unit, I had a brief conversation with one of the senior Officers. I asked him the reason for my arrest and he replied ‘Because you are living in this country as an illegal Immigrant’. Then I gave him the ID card I have received from the Home Office after claiming asylum, which showed that I had been given temporary residence in Britain. I claimed political asylum because it would be very dangerous for me to return to Libya. Despite this the police looked at my documents and still took me to the Police Station for questioning.
I was held by them for five days and then transferred to Leicester Prison, 115 miles from London – to make the visit more difficult for my brother and also because that prison was so bad, and where I could be subjected to mental torture, with no appearance in Court. I felt I was being unfairly treated because of my religion.
Two months later, I was bought back to London, to Wormwood Scrubs. I was there for three and a half months and then I was taken to the High Security Prison, Belmarsh – where human rights are violated in unbelievable ways. The reason for this transfer was because I asked for a bail application from the immigration authorities. I felt that they wanted to discipline me, so that if I applied for bail again I would face worse consequences. The bail was refused because they claim there was an extradition request from Italy, where I was living for a few months before I came to Britain.
After bail was refused I spent ten months in Belmarsh waiting for some evidence to be served against me in accordance with their claim. In the meantime, I have applied for bail nearly four times but been refused again. The prosecution gave the same reason as before to the judge, despite the fact that no charge was facing me at that time, namely because I was a Muslim and they believed I was connected to the Al-Qaida network.
After a fifteen month detention in prison, I was charged on 24th June 2003 under the Terrorism act, facing extradition to Italy
On 28th August 2003 I was transferred to Brixton Prison, where I spent nearly two and a half years – Allah knows how much I suffered in that prison, but my iman in Allah kept me firm and strong. All the time I spent in Brixton was spent fighting my extradition. I lost all the appeals in every Court but I never lost hope in Allah because I was totally innocent. My first appeal was to Bow Street Magistrates Court, where the judge asked for an expert’s report from my solicitors and from the prosecution. However when my case was heard in May 2004, unusually, both experts had testified against Italy and the ill treatment they practice against Muslims, but the decision was made (by MI5…etc…) to be sent to Italy.
I appealed to the High Court but in December 2004 they decided to send me to Italy. I appealed for the 3rd time to the House of Lords but before the decision was heard, the Italian government withdrew the extradition request. I knew that it was going to happen because all the co-defendants in Italy were found not guilty on terrorism charges just months before that. My statement can be found in the Italian newspaper ‘Stampa’, the article title being “Five Tunisians acquitted of Terror Charges” which was published on the 10th May 2005.
This statement reads: A Milan Court on Monday 9th May 2005 cleared five Tunisians accused of helping terrorist attacks outside Italy and of recruiting militant foreign fighters. Four of the five men were convicted of lesser charges, including criminal association, forging documents and facilitating illegal immigration and all sentenced between 2 and a half and four and a half years in prison. All four convicted men will be expelled from Italy as soon as they have served their jail sentence.
Accordingly, I was glad to receive such news, I thought my case was over and everything was coming to an end after all the suffering.
My solicitors applied to get me released on bail. The hearing was supposed to be on the 1st November 2005, however a day before the hearing I saw my name and photo published in the newspaper. It said: “Blunders may free ‘terror envoy’”. When I read the article I couldn’t believe what they wrote about me, it was all based on fabrication. They described me as the “European Envoy” for Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi who is blamed for a spate of car bomb attacks on US and British troops in Iraq.
Despite the fact that I have been in prison since May 2002 and the war started in Iraq March 2003, the fact that no one ever heard about Al-Zarqawi’s name at the time, and that he was publicly touted in the media as one of the Al-Qaeda members sent to Iraq; In addition, nearly one and a half years after the war started, his name was put on the list of individuals associated with organisation in 23rd September 2003, even his place at the time was unknown. At that time, I was residing in Belmarsh Prison. How could I be his envoy and have a direct contact with him? They also said I was one of the first Al-Qaeda trained operatives sent to Europe. One legal source said: “We don’t want this man (me) walking the streets so we are looking at what options we have.
When I finished reading the article, I didn’t say anything further than Alhamdulilah, I knew they will try to do anything to get rid of me.
I was so worried. I rang my solicitors around 4pm the same day. They said: we are not going ahead for bail tomorrow, and the reason is because the Home Office have decided to send you to Italy after 8 days under what is called the Dublin Convention, namely that you had already applied for asylum in Italy. That was not the case at all but how dare they violate the law and how dare they try to ignore the time I spent in jail fighting the extradition and waiting for the decision from the House of Lords regarding the extradition.
My solicitors have made an urgent appeal to stop the deportation and have warned of taking legal action against them. Amnesty International also got involved in that matter. One of the things that helps me is the case of an Egyptian born imam identified as Abu Omar, who vanished off the streets of Milan in Mid 2003, and was reportedly bundled into a van and flown back to Egypt from joint US-Italian airbase. Italian news reports say the CIA was believed to have played a role in the disappearance. Abu Omar, 45, called his wife and friends after his release in 2004. He recounted how he had been seized by Italian and American agents and taken to a secret prison in Egypt where he was tortured with electric shocks. Italian officials say he is now living in Egypt, although Italian newspaper accounts suggested he was returned to custody in Egypt shortly after his release.
Anyway, a few days after, my solicitor informed me that my deportation to Italy has been suspended for another week when a final decision is expected. I stayed waiting for nearly 6 weeks and there was no response from the Immigration authorities. I had no other choice but to apply again for bail. My solicitors were not very happy with this, and wanted me to give more time, they said: We have to be very cautious, because it is very likely that they will set the removal order once again if we pressure them. I decided to go ahead and my solicitors went according to my instructions. Once again, a day before the bail hearing my solicitors were informed by the Court that the hearing could not go ahead, because the Court did not have the power to deal with my case anymore and that my case has now been transferred to the Special Immigration Appeal Commission – I call it the Court – Martial, which has set out how to deal with a suspected Muslim terrorist, I mean the innocent Muslims who are victimised by the new crusaders of our age. The prime minister of this country, who I shy from Allah to mention his name on my tongue and I pray to Allah to save His servants from his evil. I am certain that the vast majority of Muslims in this country have not got an idea as to what we are going through and what the plan is for our future. Therefore, I will try to let you know about it, to be aware for your own safety, and also to know the reality of what is being hidden behind closed doors in the prisons of this country.
The British Government have signed a memorandum of understanding with the dictator regime of Libya on 18th October 2006 to send us back there. I was detained in prison under this agreement, and was granted the right to appeal in the SIAC. On 16th January I was taken from my cell – in Brixton Prison – to the Segregation Unit. They put me in an isolation cell for two days after I was informed that the Home Office sent them a fax informing them that I had been classified as A Cat (High Risk) and that I would be transferred to a Category A Prison. On the 18th January, at some time after 7 pm, they came to my cell and forced me to strip. I refused, and told them that this was against my religion. The officer said: I don’t give a f***. I refused again, so I was beaten up. They put me on the floor, stripped me by force and I was taken to the van. I was very sad that night, I remembered all that happened to my Muslim brothers in Guantanamo & Abu Ghraib prisons. Two hours later I found myself in Belmarsh – Hellmarsh prison. My life in Belmarsh was very very difficult. 23 hours a day behind doors, I think the most unlucky animal in this world was never treated like us, I sometimes laugh at people when I talk about prison in the so-called third world and forget about prisons in this country.
On the 26th April I was transferred to Long Lartin Prison – A Cat – where the majority of prisoners in here are A Cats and serving life sentences. They put me in a unit which was isolated from other units, it has been specialized only for the detainees.
We are only 17 Muslim brothers from Libya, Algeria and Jordan. Amongst us the Sheikh Abu Qatada the Palestinian. Some of us have already got his unfair decision, some are still waiting for the decision, some have no date set out yet and I have my next appeal date set for 6th November 2006.
I am now very frightened to be sent back to Libya, as there is no safety for me in Libya. If I could be unfairly treated in this country, what can I expect from a dictatorship? Libya is a very dangerous place for me. This Government (the British Government) are aware that I will face torture and the possibility of the death penalty which is why they signed this memorandum. They signed it to get us protection from that dictatorship not to be tortured or killed once we arrive in there. How dare the British Government deal with a dictatorship where 1200 Islamist prisoners were executed in Abu Saleem prison – Tripoli – just in June 1996 by the same regime they deal with, it was one of the biggest massacres has ever happened in prison. I think those are the criminals who should be brought before an international Court as they believe in their democratic fable. Has the prime minister forgot the past of his brother in values General Qadafi or his values not suitable for his enemies – Muslims – why doesn’t he decide to execute me here in this country? I promise to sign for that but my conditions are to do it openly in this country, at least then people will understand what they are planning behind closed doors.
This might be my last letter to you, I need your help and support after my relying on Allah the Almighty. I blame all the British who kept silent, in particular the Muslim community in this country.
My message to the Prime Minister, Home Secretary and all the MP’s, you are all aware of what you are doing, you are aware of the outcome if we are deported to our countries. What do you want? However, don’t forget that the truth one day will be emerged; in this life and the hereafter.
Faraj Faraj Hassan Al-Saadi