A veteran of Israeli gaols, wheelchair bound Mahmoud Abu Rideh is a stateless Palestinian, who has indefinite leave to remain in the UK. His family are British citizens. Following a police raid on his home in December 2001, Abu Rideh spent the next three and a half years detained without trial in HMP Belmarsh and Broadmoor. In March 2005, he was finally released, only to endure a new kind of imprisonment - under a control order, which he remains under to this day. Mahmoud Abu Rideh spoke to Cageprisoners' spokesman Moazzam Begg about his seven year ordeal and the impact that this has had on his mental health and his family life. Shortly after this interview was conducted Mahmoud was hospitalised, following a suicide attempt. He remains there, having refused food for over a month, on hunger strike til death or until he is allowed to leave the UK.
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Listen to the audio of the interview
MOAZZAM BEGG: Could you introduce yourself to our readers please? How old are you, first of all?
MAHMOUD ABU RIDEH: My name is Mahmoud Abu Rideh. I am from Palestine, from Gaza Strip. My age is 37. I have six children, who live with me in London. Iíve been with the problem in this country now for I think seven years, since 2001Ö
MB: Weíll come to that, I just want to ask you a few more questions about the initial stages of what happened to you. Can you just tell me what nationality do you hold?
MAR: I donít have any nationality. Iím stateless. Iím Palestinian and Palestinians donít have any nationality beforeÖ
MB: So you are a person who has no nationality?
MAR: Not any nationality. Still til now, I donít have nothing in this country. My family they are all British citizens, all my family in this country, and for me, nothing I have.
MB: How long have you been living in this country?
MAR: Iíve lived in this country, í95 til now.
MB: So youíve been in this country for a total of thirteen years. And you still have no right to any nationality here?
MAR: Nothing, yes.
MB: Could you explain to us what took you to the United Kingdom? What was the reason that you came to the United Kingdom?
MAR: I come as an asylum seeker from Palestine. I was born in Jordan. I donít have anything because they have two fighting (wars) with Israel, first fighting í48, second fighting í67. My family go Jordan í67. And these people in Jordan since í67, from Gaza Strip, they donít have anything in Jordan, like they donít have nationality, still asylum, still status in Jordan, and still in the camp in Jordan.
MB: So even in Jordan, they have noÖ
MB: Can you tell me what did you used to do before you were taken to prison? What sort of work were you involved in?
MAR: My work before - I have - like a charity. I help people in Palestine, Afghanistan, Kashmir, Chechnya - any country that have problems, I help them. I have charity, Islamic Services Bureau and I have two schools in Kabul, Afghanistan.
MB: I know that very well, because we worked together to build that school, which we all had problems with, for girls. And for our readers - I think it is very important for our readers to know this - that the school that you began, with many people, including myself, helping in it, was for girls in a place where the rest of the world was saying that the Taliban did not allow female education, when in fact Muslims were helping to set up schools, like yourself, for girls in Afghanistan.
Can you just explain to us, when the first raid took place - I think it was in 2001 when you were arrested - could you explain a little bit about what were the circumstances? Who arrested you, and why they arrested you?
MAR: Before 2001, never I go prison, never I have any charge, never I meet anybody from MI5, MI6, Scotland Yard, never anyone stopped me, never in my life in this country. And I have indefinite leave to remain.
MB: You have leave to remain in this country?
MA: Yes, I have it, before. After 9/11 2001, in the morning, about 5am in the morning, I find some people in my house, coming, MI5, Scotland Yard, Immigration, too many people, policeÖ
MB: Did they knock on the door, or did they break the door?
MAR: No, they broke the door. And they just take me straight from my house to Belmarsh, single cell.
MB: Your family and your wifeÖ?
MAR: They take my family, my wife, my children, to hostel in Sutton.
MB: And your family, were they very upset?
MAR: My family were very upset. Never I go like before any problems. I didnít think he arrested me. Quickly they told me youíre not going to leave this country.
MB: Did they make any form of charges against you? Did they take you to court?
MAR: No, no court, no lawyer, they didnít take my fingerprints still til now, they didnít take my DNA. Nothing, still Ďtil now. They take me at 5am in single cell to Belmarsh High Security, and Belmarsh, itís a unitÖ no, I didnít go to the police station. This is the law, Anti-Terrorism Act 2001, you donít have charge, no trial, and you stay indefinitely in prison.
MB: So at this point, they didnít tell you that there were any charges or what crime youíve committed, or anything?
MAR: No, just that Iím a threat to national security. Yes, this, and this is in the letter. And nothing more.
MB: And at this point, you had no lawyer at all?
MAR: No lawyer, maybe after one and a half months.
MB: Subhan Allah
MAR: And my family didnít know where is me for maybe two months. My wife, she lived in New Malden, she phoned Kingston Police Station. They said I donít know whereís this man. I donít know him. She tried phoning too manyÖ Scotland YardÖ too manyÖ
MB: Police stations?
MAR: Öpolice stations in this country. And no oneÖ
MB: And nobody explained to her where you were taken away, where you had gone?
MB: Following your arrest and in Belmarsh, your imprisonment there, could you tell us a little about what the conditions, the treatment inside Belmarsh was at that time?
MAR: This time you go Belmarsh, and you go in the prison, and you have in Belmarsh, a unit, a prison within a prison, Cat AA.
MB: A prison within a prison?
MAR: Yes, you have a unit in Belmarsh, which is for very, very dangerous people, criminal, big case.
MB: And this people have been convicted already?
MAR: No, no, they are waiting for the trial. Just I go there, he give me in a single cellÖ
MB: And how many hours were you locked up for?
MAR: 23, no, 22 hours locked up.
MB: 22 hours.
MAR: More than 22 hours. You have like 45 minutes for exercise, 45 minutes for association and all the time you have short staff.
MB: So they always cut you short?
MAR: Yeah, every time. And difficult for the visits. After my wife, I think she visited me after two months, and closed visit still. And you see your children and your wife, your family, and you have glass.
MB: So you are not able to physically touch your children?
MAR: No, no, not allowed. After six months, allowed.
MB: And so they were treating you as if you were one of the highest ranking category prisoners, the biggest criminals, even though you hadnít even been charged with a crime?
MB: What was your interaction with other prisoners? Were you able to interact with other prisoners? Or did other prisoners treat you badly? What was their sort of attitude towards you?
MAR: Like I have too many problems, too many incidents with the officers in Belmarsh, not one. I believe these people who work in Belmarsh and all the prisons in England, these people are same people who go Iraq, go Afghanistan, the same family, the same neighbour, the same people, the English people, the same officer, the same. I go there, after maybe three days I had an incident. Still all the time I have flashbacks of this incident, itís coming in my mind, itís coming all the time. I dream this all the time. I have --- with a prison officer. I go in 19th in prison, then 21(st), after two days, I think Boxing Day, you have Christmas time, Boxing Day, and I think this day, on Saturday, in the morning, already when I go to Belmarsh I have back pain problem, and I have depression. I have medication for depression, already outside, before I go prison, maybe six or seven years.
MB: And thatís because of the trauma inside Palestine?
MAR: Yes, Iíve been in prison in Palestine, yes. I told the doctor, I went on medication. He tried to phone my GP and he phoned my family, or something, and he give me medication, two books, small books, every one I have maybe twenty tablets. He said take one in the morning, and then the other one in the morning (evening); again every day, two. One day, when I had association with another prisoner, when I mixed with a Muslim prisoner, when I stayed with him - still I have my back pain problem, I canít sleep at night, all the time in a single cell, and I think too much for me, I donít know what charge I have, why Iím here - too many questions and I donít have any answer. I worry for my children; I worry for my wife, about everything. And this day, one friend told me, ďThis tablet - this is paracetamol, these are two books of paracetamol!Ē Quickly I flipped and I put all the tablets on the floor, straight away on the floor.
MB: So it was just paracetamol?
MAR: After I realised this was paracetamol, this is nothing, where is my medication? I wanted a strong painkiller for my back and something else for my depression. I put the paracetamol on the floor, quickly I put it on the floor, I tread on the floor. Quickly, there is an officer coming, he locked my hands and put me in my single cell. After fifteen minutes, he take all the prisoners, you go exercise - this was in the morning Ė this time eight officers coming, you have special clothes, all like - hands plasticÖ
MB: Protective armour protection, protection for his legs, armourment Everything goes inside, comes in with a shield.
MAR: Special shoes, special clothes, everything special. He quickly opened my cell and one officer he attacked my heart. Quickly I canít breathe, I cut my heart. Eight people, in a single cell, it was very small.
MB: Sounds like Guantanamo, because thatís what they used to do to us in Guantanamo.
MAR: Yes. After, I canít breathe. I was in too much pain, I cried. I donít know whatís happened, too much pain in my heart. Quickly, he take me, he put my hand in the back and he take me in a different place.
MB: He handcuffed you?
MAR: Yes, handcuffed, and he take me to the basement, in a seclusion unit, in the basement. And I donít know anything. I donít know seclusion, Iím now three or four days in the prison, I donít know anything. I donít know anything for seclusion, I donít see these people before.
MB: So why did they put you there? What was there..?
MAR: I donít know. He take me there, I go this room, and the room is very black. All the walls are dark and black.
MB: So you couldnít see anything?
MAR: I didnít see anything and he put me there. And the doctor coming after maybe five or six hours, and this doctor told me, and I remember Indian doctor, a woman, sheís very old. I tell her, look I have bruise, quickly I opened my shirt, in my heart, I see I have bruise, blue, and I see I have pain again. I told her, 'I have pain here, see, the officer attacked me in the morning. Somebody attacked me. I have pain, I want to go to hospital to see somebody, I want to phone my lawyer'. She didnít let me do anything. She just said, 'stay here'.
MB: How long did you remain in this dark room for?
MAR: I stayed in this room for four days. After I stayed in this room, four days, he take me, he said the Governor is coming, he wants to see you. And I go to the Governor, I have a court inside Belmarsh.
MB: A prison court.
MAR: A prison court, you have. You have to intercom in the phone. I remember this intercom guy, the name, Hassan. You have intercom. I phoned and he told me. He gave me charge now, two charge, one charge: why did I put the medication on the floor, itís dangerous for other prisoners, health and safety. The other charge he gave me, he told me I attacked an officer, officer in hospital.
MB: When in fact the officer had come inside into your cell, in full armoured gearÖ
MAR: Yes, he told me I attacked somebody. And quickly as I saw these two charge, I said this is injustice. I donít attack, I have injury; somebody attacked me. I didnít attack anybody. I go cry again, why, you put me in prison for nothing? I worry for my family. Now fourth day I donít see any friend, I donít see any prisoner, I donít have any association, the food is coming into my room. And this time, I stopped eating, I go hunger strike, I donít eat anything. I drink water for four days. He told me, drink. I said no I donít drink. I said why you put me here? Send me back with my friend. The Governor told me, you attacked somebody. I said, no, I didnít attack anybody. Bring the pictures, you have camera, CCTV camera and everything, and he donít listen. He told me, the Governor, Iíll send you now upstairs, in the unit with your friends, if you will stop the hunger strike. I said ok, I agree. I donít like to stay more than four days in this room. My feelings are very down and I donít eat anything. I go dizzy and I canít walk. I have too many problems.
MB: So how long after you had been in prison?
MAR: Just four days. The problems start like this.
MB: Just after four days? From the beginning?
MAR: From the beginning. Six weeks, I went to speak to the lawyer. Next week, he bring me the same, in the court. And before I go to court, still I am fasting, I go in the corridor of the unit, very small. The officer, heís a very big officer and he has tattoos all over the body, on the face, everywhere, and heís smoking, and he put smoke in my face. I said look, I have problem with breathing, I have asthma, I donít like smoke, I am fasting. He put it in my face, again and again and again. After I go inside the court, inside the room, with six or seven officers, the Governor and too many people still inside. I tell them quickly, before you want to start with me, to give me charge with the incident ten days before, I was to tell you about this man, he was smoking in my face, I have asthma, I have problem, and he talked to me bad, and heís swearing, and he talked to me rubbish talk. And he wonít listen. Can I just ask him why this? The Governor, he doesnít listen to me, he doesnít listen to my talking, I give him a question he doesnít give me the answer. Quickly, he start with the court. He told me, look you have two charges, like I told you last week, why did you put the medication on the floor, all over the place, not safety for the prisoners, and I take this charge. And you have another charge, you attacked the officer. I said I did not attack anybody and donít play with me games, this is a big game, I donít done anything wrong. And the problems start like this.
The next day, you have association, I go to my association, I have shower. Wallahil-ĎadheemI told the truth, people think I made this talk, no, wallahil-Ďadheem, I tell the truth. The next day, I go shower, and this time I think, four oíclock in the afternoon. I am in the shower now and cleaner coming with me. He told me, shower finished. I said no, still I have shampoo in my hand, soap everywhere, please let me finish. Quickly, the officer coming, he take me in my cell, I donít still finish my shower and I donít have any clothesÖ
MB: And youíre still covered in soap and no clothes?
MAR: No clothes, and still the shampoo is everywhere, and the soap Ė everywhere, my face, everywhere. I donít finish. This is the incident. Every time something else coming. One day he donít give you your food, you order something he give you something else. Like, every time you have something else. Like, they donít give me my visit, my wife. Every time he told me, full, the place for visits is full. This time I went to see lawyer, I didnít see my lawyer. This time, my lawyer, he take the government to court, why they donít give me any visit, any legal or social visit. The judge, he moved him from Belmarsh to Brixton.
MB: He moved you?
MAR: No, he moved the Governor in charge. And he tell him next time he said if you come and give this man problems I will put you in prison. I remember this, if you want you can ask my lawyer, Gareth, she remembers this, and Daniel, he remembers this problem. Like I told you, how many problems, maybe a hundred incidents like this.
MB: And do you think these incidents were taking place just to break you mentally?
MAR: Yes, he break me, my mind, and I canít sleep all the time. At night time, all the time, at night, I have light inside my room. I put the light off at night. Somebody coming in shift night, the staff, the officers, he put the light on, all big light. I put it again off, he put it on - all the time he play with you games, in the night. He kick the door in the night.
MB: To keep you awake.
MAR: Yes, I donít sleep.
MB: A lot of this sounds very similar to treatment of people in Guantanamo, in Bagram and other places; the way they kick our cells, they used to sometimes throw stones on the bars to keep us awake. Why do you think they were doing this? You werenít being interrogated at this time? Was anybody asking you any questions at this time?
MAR: No, no. Still, no one has given me any questions.
MB: So no one Ė you were never questioned?
MAR: These people were racist, and you have racists and discrimination against Muslims. Terrorist everywhere, he thinks I am a terrorist, the officer. He just treats Muslims like this, and heís happy. These people are very bad people. And I smell it all the time, the officer he drink alcohol. He canít walk. Heís still smelling of alcohol. And itís very, very bad, you work here, all the people who work in Belmarsh, he been in army. I see too many in the ward there. He been in army, twenty years, fifteen years, in Middle East and different places, Africa, everywhere Ė he been in the army. After he finish with the army, he come and work in Belmarsh. Like I see in Abu Ghraib, and Guantanamo, too many prisons, secret prisons in the world everywhere, I see the same. They treat you the same.
MB: So how long did you remain in Belmarsh in the first period?
MAR: I stayed in Belmarsh, I think eight months.
MB: And after BelmarshÖ?
MAR: After Belmarsh, he moved me to Broadmoor Hospital.
MB: Broadmoor because of the effects ofÖ?
MAR: Yes, because I have problem, and he moved me in Broadmoor. And in Broadmoor, the same. He put me with mad people, with mentalÖ
MB: What was their reason, was it your decision to go to Broadmoor?
MAR: No, it was not my decision. At this time, I go hunger strike, I did not eat anything for four months. I loseÖ Why? For detention without charge, for racism, for discrimination in Belmarsh, too many reasons, why I go hunger strike. Like fourth visit, my family visit me, too many problems.
MB: Sorry, just to go back, your relationship with other prisoners in Belmarsh, what kind of relationship did you have with prisoners, with other detainees?
MAR: Nothing, just I see Muslim people. Some people you have the same as my case, like ten to fifteen people in my case, no charge, no trial.
MB: As far as other prisoners, how did they treat you, the prisoners that werenít Muslim?
MAR: Non-Muslim? It was very bad. The officer told me many times. He told me Iíll kill you one day, you go back your country, and this is the officer he told me this, and too many problems. Like, one day, I filled the form for my family to visit me and asked me the officer for your childrenís names. I put my Khalid, my son, Imad, Alaa, my daughterís name, Hani, Israa. Why donít you put Bin Ladin with you?
MB: Subhan Allah.
MAR: Donít ask me this, I donít know Bin Laden, I donít know where is Bin Laden. He said, just put Bin Laden. And I complained, I donít take anything. And all the time you complain with the treatment, you have complaints department, no action do they take, nothing, nothing.
MB: They donít accept anything.
MAR: You have an investigation, some officer coming, and the other governor, the other unit, the other wingÖ
MB: From the same department.
MAR: The same, Belmarsh. I tell you I want people outside the building, some people outside, never these people coming. And maybe heís coming heís still with the government, the system. Never he finds the government, the system is guilty. All the time, the prisoners guilty, especially Muslims.
MB: Even though heís not been charged with a crime.
MB: So in Broadmoor, can you describe a little bit about what was your mental status that they decided that you need to go to Broadmoor? Why did they send you to Broadmoor?
MAR: Because, after the incident, I have depression, why I go have hunger strike, I have problems, I donít know in EnglishÖ post traumatic stress disorder. He told me I have this one. He put me there with very, very criminal people, very, very mad people thereÖ itís a very dangerous hospital.
MB: Yes, itís well known.
MAR: Too many people attacked me there, too many prisoners. Like one day, in 2004, the European Commissioner for Human Rights, he visited me in Canterbury, in Branbury Ward in Broadmoor hospital. I stay with these people for one hour, I complain of all the treatment, I complain of the Home Office, why with no charge? Why put me with these criminal people? I donít kill anybody, I donít do anything wrong, I donít do any fire, I didnít kill anything. These people in Broadmoor, he eat mind, some people they kill him and eat his mind, some people he put a fire for children, youíre with these people. This day, the European Human Rights Commissioner visits me, from Sweden and different European countries and he talked to me. He told me, ĎOkay, I will give you a break for ten minutes. Can I go and see your cell?í ĎOkay, go with meí. This time, 12 oíclock, we have lunch time all the prisoners in Broadmoor, in lunch place, the dining room. I go walk with him, this prisoner coming, this English guy coming. Quickly, he attacked me in my face, and these people, walking with me. He punched me in my face and I have bruise and the blood coming everywhere. And he put me on the floor. This officer, the nurse, he put the prisoner on the floor, he put him in the seclusion unit. Too many times with other guys, assault me. And he bring the doctor and he checked me, he give me painkiller, and he cleaned. Nothing. This day, the people from Sweden, he crying. I see him, and heís scared. The man he attacked me, because Iím very small, and he fight with me, and he is a very big guy. And he attacked me before too many times. And I complain, he didnít move me, he leave me staying with him. The same place, like I see this guy every day, ten or fifteen hours; itís not safety, I canít sleep there.
MB: Subhan Allah. And heís in the same room as you?
MAR: No, the room is open. The room is open; he can easily come in my room. And he attacked too many, not just me, he attacked too many people, every day. These people, the European Human Rights Commissioner, he see this, he crying. He told to me, I find all of your complaints are true. I see in my face evidence. And this day he moved me to another ward, quiet, more quiet, but still the problems the same.
MB: SubhanAllah. And how long did you remain in Broadmoor for?
MAR: I stayed there three years. And very bad; maybe you have more association, more exercise, more something, but you stay with very bad people, very, very dangerous people.
MB: Convicted of criminality, criminally insane people.
MAR: Yes, yes. Like my neighbour, from Wales... He killed five, six children.
MB: Ian Brady I think.
MAR: Too many. And a womanÖ
MB: Myra Hindley.
MAR: The newspapers mention all the time, too many peopleÖ oh my God. I was there with this people. I donít like telling people I am in Broadmoor.
MB: Because they think Broadmoor means that you are criminally insane.
MAR: One day, Broadmoor hospital, he sent a letter for my wife, for something, for a visit, and the letter he goes for my neighbourís box. Quickly, the neighbour came to my house and said ok, why your husband is in Broadmoor? I thought your husband is very good, heís my neighbour for a long time. My wife, she canít talk.
MB: I think some people canít actually believe that this type of thing is actually happening in England. Maybe they can believe it happens in a third world country but when it happens in England, people go into denial, they canít believe it.
MAR: I know too many people in Broadmoor, they go after me, too many people who go, maybe like, six, seven, Muslims now. He go Broadmoor.
MB: In your past, you spent some time in Israeli prisons. Might you give us a comparison between British prisons and Israeli prisons?
MAR: The same prison. Maybe in Israel, still you mix, you have Palestinians with you. It is not single cell.
MB: You donít have to worry about other prisoners attacking you.
MAR: No. The officer and the Israeli army. Maybe there, I stay with the other people, my country, my friend, I know him, Palestinian people, he is fighting for a free country Ė the same. Here, no, different here, you have everything: racism, discriminationÖ
MB: They decided through these Special Immigration Appeals Courts, the SIAC court, they decided your case in there so itís a secretive place. Could you tell me a little about your experience, what do you know SIAC? What does SIAC mean to you?
MAR: Like, I donít know for SIAC anything. I know SIAC court, Special Immigration Appeals Court. Iíve been there too many times. This is like army court. I believe it is court. The government he does this. The juror, the judge, is not free. And I donít have jury, just judge. And not free - the Home Office, he put this guy. And this very bad judge. Some people are very bad.
MB: And he is not going to represent any of your case.
MAR: No, You have secret sessions, secret case. Me and my lawyer, and everybody, does not know what Iíve done. He canít go inside this.
MB: Again this is just like Guantanamo; they have secret courts where they make a decision, secret evidence that we canít show you, and this secret evidence is the reason why weíre holding you, but we canít tell you that reason.
MAR: This is the problem, secret. And I think all the time, this is torture for me - I think what Iíve done? Whatís inside, the secret? Why you put me? I believe these people theyíve damaged my mind, my body, I go like problems I have with mental, and he damaged my family, my children. This court he told secret sessions, this MI5, MI6 and Scotland Yard he told this. I believe every time, these people, he damaged me, he damaged already Iraq, he damaged countries, killed a million people in Iraq, one million, and how many people injured, and how many people are refugees, whatís going on Iraq every day, and he told Iraq very good, all the reason he go Iraq, nothing, itís not the truth, Iraq doesnít have anything. And heís fighting the terrorists, for the same reason, MI5, MI6, Scotland Yard, CIA, FBI allÖ
MB: Yes, if they can invade countries based upon torturing people like Ibn Al Shaykh (Al Libi) from who they said they got good evidence, then whatís an ordinary person like you or me. I think another reason why they kind of kept you in secret is because you were helping those to set up a school, a girlís school in Kabul, and that of course is a big crime to do. Itís the same crime that I was involved in committing.
Eventually, after all of this, three years of terrible time, in Britainís worse, or the place where the worst criminally insane people are held in the United Kingdom, you were eventually released in 2005 under a control order. What were the circumstances of your release?
MAR: It was not really release, they release you with something like, the 2001 Terrorism Act finished and he put you under other 2005 control order. This is the same. You go 7 to 7. You have 12 hours inside the house. You donít have visitors.
MB: After three and a half years of injustice, after the House of Lords ruled that your detention was illegal, even after all of this, you didnít come home to a big welcome party and everybody saying to you, finally, thereís been a great miscarriage of justice and that you can now come home and you will be compensated for all of this time that youíve spent in prison. In fact, you come home and they put restrictions on you that theyíve never put on anybody in this country before you. Can you describe a little bit, some of those restrictions?
MAR: Heís change the control order about ten times, every 6-7 months, one year, he changes the control order for you. Like you have curfew, 7 to 7; if I want to go outside my house, 7 oíclock in the morning Ďtil 7 oíclock in the afternoon. And this time not allowed internet inside my house, outside my house. Not allowed mobile phone, inside my house, outside my house. Not allowed SIM card, not allowed digital camera, not allowed video camera, not allowed USB, not allowed play station - too many, like not allowed, not allowed.
MB: This law, they know you are a family man who has seven children ma shaíAllah, that once you go home, the children who could have had these things before you came home now, when the father returns, you canít have these things; so theyíre punishing the children because the father has come home.
MB: So the children then have to associate losing all of these things because of the father coming home.
MB: So the punishment is not just on you but on your children, who are completely innocent Ė even though you are innocent Ė but the children have an innocence at a level thatís unmatched. This is one of the things that people do not understand about control orders that it doesnít simply apply to an individual, it affects the whole of the family. How have your family reacted to these laws? How do they go to school, do their homework properly, when they need the internet? What do they do?
MAR: This is torture for my family, and he punishes my family the same way he punishes me. Too many problems, like my children he canít go outside of the house after 7 oíclock. I have three girls, very big now, aged 14, 13, 12 and three boys. Maybe I want to visit anybody, I want to go with my children, maybe someone wants to visit me, the adults, with the dad and the mum coming, Iím not allowed. The internet - my daughter, she has secondary school - every day the teacher asks her homework, home work, homework, go on the internet. For something else, like my daughter she asked me before, four or five weeks, sheís been asking me for help with something, Shakespeare, and she asked me. And I donít have any book with this Shakespeare and my daughter wants to go on the internet, outside of the house, go to library, internet cafť, sheís 14. She takes USB or something into the house then Home Office come the next day told me, you are not allowed USB. What does USB mean? My wife and children need education. He punished the children and he punished my family. Itís torture. My children told me, not allowed video camera, not allowed, not allowed. Itís like Gaza Strip. My children, he told the Home Office many times, just cut the electricity and the water. He goes the same as Gaza Strip. I am from Gaza strip, the Israelis did for the Muslims, he cut everything. Now I believe he has done the same, the same game. My children, every time they tell the Home Office, why donít you cut the water and the electricity and we stay like Gaza Strip? Itís even better than in Britain. My children are British - they are born here, all my children, he born here. He has British passport, heís born here. What will they do for these people after they have grown up? They donít like the police, they donít like any police people coming to my house, every four, five, six days. Like I remember last night he was coming in my house and the police coming, he search all my house; he search my wifeís clothes, my daughterís clothes, my childrenís clothes. I want to ask Tony Blair, no, Gordon Brown, the Home Secretary, and the ministers in this country, I want to ask anybody, he be happy with the Home Office, anyone goes and checks your wifeís clothes and your clothes? And he comes and checks everything in my house. Maybe he will find a bomb or something. How many times heís checked? Nothing. Just he takes my money.
MB: They took your money away?
MAR: He take my money last year. I put safety, some money for my children and my wife who want to go Jordan. My children, after all the problems heís stayed with the control order for two and a half years, he canít carry on, too many problems, I have too many problems with my wife, with my children, all the time; Iím told this is your problem, my problem, your problem, whatís good for you, go back to prison, go in another flat, I want to go to education. My children want to go for education, want to use the internet. I am angry in the house; now Iím in wheelchair, I have back pain, I canít go out unless somebody helps me and I want to take children with me, and all the time I stay in the house, angry, with children with my wife. Afterwards, my wife, she go leave the country. I was not happy, she want to leave the country, she go Jordan, my wife. Before she goes to Jordan, one week, my wife, she brings £4500 from my wifeís account, from her benefits. She saved some money, they want to go to Jordan. Then five six days before, they searched my house and he take all the cash from my house. For me, I donít allowed to go work. I donít allowed to search anything in the post, I donít allowed to go post office. Iím not allowed to go Heathrow or any train, any airport, any exit you have international, train, any ferryÖ
MB: Any port of entry.
MAR: The border, any place I want to leave the country, any place you have international. I am not allowed too many. Not allowed bank account. For me I donít have bank account. I want to - still sometimes I sell honey, very cheap, where do I want to put the money? I want to put the money in my house because I donít allow bank account. What do I do with my money? I have to give it the Home office.
MB: Deposit it with 10 Downing Street.
MAR: Yes. They take my cash, my wifeís money. And the children they believe this police is a thief. He go to Iraq, he take the oil, and heís killed people there and heís coming in my house, he takes my cash. And I have two brothers in Palestine, he died, I helped him. Now he damaged all the family, my children, heís gone like this. Heís born like this, all the time problem, and my children, he donít like this country now. And he thought something for this country very dangerous. Maybe you didnít torture, but if you treat someone of any origin like me, Muslims in this country, how are you going to go? You are going to go very dangerous, and especially for my children all the time thinking bad for the police, for this country, after he grows up and done something, are you going to say he is a terrorist? Heís not a terrorist, you treat people like this?
MB: Itís strange because they talk about young Muslims getting radicalised and always question why, whyís it happening. They are blind to the reality. Subhan Allah, itís unbelievable. You recently have now been put into a wheel chair, you cannot walk properly. There are restrictions regardless of the wheelchair that you canít even be supported, you canít even be helped by somebody whoís helping you to push the wheelchair, to come to your house?
MAR: Nobody, he is not allowed to put me inside my house. The Home Office said this.
MB: If someone actually wheeled you into your house that person could get arrested?
MAR: Yes. I have a letter from the Home Office, anybody who wants to put me inside my house with the wheelchair, he is put in prison.
MB: And theyíll put you in prison too?
MAR: Yes, me too. And my wife she goes to Jordan last year and I donít have bank account and my benefit is in my wifeís account. Iím not allowed to take any cash in my account and any body who wants to help me, who wants to take money for me, just money that I want to use for food, for my life, he arrest this guy.
MB: Somebody canít even give you charity money.
MAR: No, not allowed.
MB: Otherwise they will be arrested.
MAR: Yes. Not allowed. Anyone give me money, itís not allowed. He check me every time, the police come, he check, he search me. If he find with me more than £100, he take it.
MB: You also were given a tag to wear before, that tag has now been removed, the security tag. How long did you have to wear the tag for?
MAR: I stayed with the tag for four weeks and then the doctor and the Home Office, he will be worried and scared and escape and he donít talk to me, I believed this tag he has, he listened to my talk, he knows where I go.
MB: You were also subjected to making voice recognition phone calls as was featured in the documentary made by Phil Rees, in which you had to make phone calls continuously.
MAR: Now, I have phone calls, like I have phone calls, one 10:15pm at night, and 6:15am, 6:45am. Every morning and every night. I have one 2 oíclock, 12 oíclock every day. Three phone calls. I want to phone the company, the monitor, I have to give them my voice, every day three times. Sometimes the machine doesnít work. I stay half an hour, one hour, Last time I said to the manager, in charge, I waited one hour, maybe one hour, two hours, keep trying. Itís hard for me, at 6 oíclock, 6:15pm, my bed time is now 4 oíclock in the morning. And I go down to 1 oíclock, 2 oíclock in the morning and I went to sleep, what time I went to sleep, and I have sleeping tablets for depression. I went to sleep at night 11 oíclock, 12 oíclock I woke up for my prayer time, itís important. I want to wake up again, more important, for the phone call. And sometimes I didnít phone, the police come quickly to my house.
MB: So if the phone call is not received on the other side, they will come straight away.
MAR: Straight away.
MB: They will arrest you? Or what will they do?
MAR: Sometimes they arrest me. Sometimes they talk to me, why you didnít give a reason, why you didnít phone the company. Sometimes Iím in the house but I forgot. The same thing, the same they give you time, but I forgot. Like, I canít carry on with this. The police, they know I am in a wheelchair. Police say to me go sign, and I have back pain, I have problem - and where do you want me to go sign? Fulham police station. I donít like going there. To die is better to me (than) I go to police station. Better I kill myself than I go to the police station. I told the truth. I am Muslim, yes, I know, I canít carry on like this. People they think the Muslim say you kill yourself, you go jahanam, you go hellfire. I want to put somebody, like me, put him, one week, two, three weeks, see what happen in Palestine. He donít be with the problems. He woke up every day, every morning. What I done? I woke up for the Home Office. How many people I kill? What wrong I done? Every day Ė itís torture. I went to sleep, at night, I put the phone, the alarm for 6am in my house, and my children woke me up, 1 oíclock, thereís been a phone call. My phone call is 6 oíclock and he didnít have watch and my children woke me up, my children, he canít sleep. He had dream of the police, all of the children woke up in the morning, they thought I dreamed, all the domain police and Scotland Yard they are coming in my house. He gives the name to children, and all the time, the children, he talk for the police, for Scotland Yard, all the time he talk, all the time, all the talk in the house for these people. I donít know whatís with the police? Do they think itís good for Muslims? Good for my children? My children, I donít know, the Home Office, this country, and the Americans have spend a million pounds for the media, itís not racist country, and Britain good country, free country and the Americans the same. Maybe you spend every day a million. This is nothing. Just I speak to people in the mosque that I have, itís enough, for a thousand people. My children, theyíre big people, the school, everybody, itís enough. And people outside, especially Muslims, he believe what I talk, he doesnít believe the Home Office, he knows the Home Office he killed people in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Somalia, in Chechnya, every day for no reason, for nothing. And see in Gaza Strip what happened. All my problems before Ė why? The British, they give my country for the Jews. Now they tell the Jewish you have problems with land, and the same, I believe, Muslims, the same, as Jewish before, he treat him the same way. He treats Muslims everywhere, I donít know, like. Before in this country he treats the Irish people, the black people, the same dog, the same dog, the same animal. Now, everywhere, the Muslims are like this. The animals are better than Muslims in this country.
MB: Thatís true because if anybody treated an animal the way that theyíd treated you in prison, they would be brought up for charges by the RSPCA.
MAR: Wallahil-Ďadheem, one day, Iíve been in Belmarsh at night. I have problem I canít sleep and I need tablets to go to sleep and he donít give me tablets. And this time I have hunger strike. And all my body is shaking and all my face blue as I havenít eaten for four months. And the governor bring the dog inside my room, wallahil-Ďadheem, and he told me, look, I leave the biscuit with you. I remember this. This one time, one time, he put, and wallahil-Ďadheem, this is true, this is in 2007, I been in Belmarsh, three months I go, somebody same my case, they said he had deportation in Jordan, Mr Mohammad Al Rifaíee. And this day I stayed in the wing with six people, and the Home Office they want to move this guy at night to a single cell and he moved him already, but he wanted to take the stuff for this guy. He had book and shoes and clothes. I see the officer. He put five, four shoes, after he put the Quran. Wallahil adheem I saw this. I told him officer, Iím in a wheelchair, I was staying in the bed, I said why did you put my Qurían inside the bag in a plastic bag - you see everything, white one, I said why did you put the shoes with the Qurían. He said, no this is not allowed to touch the Qurían (for the) officer. He said, no, itís allowed, but with shoes, the law told me itís not allowed to touch the Qurían with my hand, I want to put gloves. I said what teach you this? This is my Qurían, take the Qurían out. But he didnít listen.
MB: So he just left it with the shoes?
MAR: Yes, how many incidents with the Quran? Guantanamo, everywhere. The same. This people donít like the Qurían, donít like the Muslims. Itís not a free country, just free forÖ and Jews, itís not free for Muslims.
MB: Subhan Allah, itís really terrible to hear this in this country. Unbelievable. You were recently blessed with a son mashaíAllah, with a child. What difficulties were there for you, with the control order, in having to go through the process of having a child?
MAR: My wife have a new baby and before I told the Home Office, my wife she is delivering, baby is coming into the house. The Home Office, heís angry, he donít want anybody coming in the house. And he want the name of the doctor and the midwife. After he agreed to go to the hospital with my wife, just one time, with my lawyer. I go with my lawyer in the hospital one time. After, my wife, she had baby and nobody visit my house. Still to now, the baby now is three months old, nobody visit my house. Every one, he has baby, he is married, he has something, and people visit him, he gives him presents, talks to him, somethingÖ and my children, heís like bored people. How many Eid coming, and Christmas time, and Eid time is coming? How may times my wife goes to Jordan and comes back? Nobody visits him, and like this. I donít know, how many Eids coming and nobody knocked on the door or coming inside my house, how many years?
MB: Because nobody is allowed to come to your house.
MAR: Not allowed, nobody visits my house. And itís torture. The children say, why this, why this, why this - every time, every time.
MB: Before all of this you used to be a social person, you used to have many people.
MAR: I have friends before, I like people visit me. This is not my country. The Muslims here, my friends, my family, I donít have any family in this country. I donít know, the Home Office are happy with this, they torture, these people. Whatís going to happen to my children when they grow up? The children are thinking very dangerous, all the time. Last time, maybe two months ago, Scotland Yard coming into my house, and the children he asked the officer too many questions and the officer didnít give any answer. He was just saying, Calm down, calm down, calm down. And the children ask why do you put my dad under a control order? Why put my dad in prison? Why, why, why, why? Too many. Why you push my dad in prison and he have back pain now? You broken back, my dad. Why, why this? And no answer. Just Ďcalm down, calm down, calm down.í Nothing coming. I donít know what type of information you are growing up, I donít know what will happen. Maybe he will put my children before he grown up under a control order. Itís suffering for my children. He has control order but everyone thinks we will give them tag on their legs, and it is better.
And like my wife - sheís coming to Jordan before four months. Sheís coming to have the baby, sheís going to do the delivery and then sheís going to go back Jordan. And the Home Office in Heathrow terminal three, they take my wifeís passport, British passport. Still to now we donít get my wifeís passport back. And 2002 Terrorism Act she take the passport, just one week and now I donít know whereís my wifeís passport now.
MB: How long have they had it?
MAR: Now, four months. I donít know where the passport is now. My wife she doesnít have anything. She wants to go back to school, she canít go back to Jordan, school and the children stay in the house whilst she pays money for a school in Jordan like al-Ittihad, private school. They want to go back and she canít go back. The children can easily go back but my wife she canít just send the children, to get somebody to just look after my children. And she got British passport, they take it, and I donít know where the passport is now. Everyone told me, with Scotland Yard. Scotland Yard told me, itís not with me, MI5. MI5 said itís with the police. Everyone give me a different name. And I donít know where the passport is now. And you have election I think coming in London, and they are saying to vote for Ken Livingstone, and my wife - she canít, she donít have passport. I donít know, these people, they take my wifeís passport. I donít know whatís the answer.
Like now, I went to see these people, the Home Office, never I see him. I want to speak to him, why you put me this, why, why? Nothing. And I ask the Home Office, I want to leave the country, I told them in Arabic something. Yesterday, before today, I want to leave the country, I donít want to stay in the country one hour. I donít like this country, I want to go to any country. Maybe I go Guantanamo, better than here. Maybe I go Syria, I go Jordan, I go Israel, better than this country. Itís enough for me this country. In other country, I go torture, six, seven months, a year, and then he leave me alone. This country now, seven years. How? Too much for me, thinking. Itís enough for me. Itís enough for my family. Everything is not allowed, everything is not allowed. Please cut the electricity in my house, and the water.
MB: I remember once you mentioned that you bumped into Jack Straw in the street. Could you describe what that incident was about?
MAR: In 2005, after he released me from prison, maybe six seven months, maybe more, I released Fulham. I go cafe shop in Northern Road, Milad Cafť. I go there with a friend I drink cafť outside and I see Jack Straw in front of us heís still in charge of the Foreign Office. I see him he got outside and he have car, he drives the car, and Iím on Northern Road in Fulham and heís Jack Straw. He doesnít have anybody with him, no security, no guard, no police, nothing. And I see him and I said to my friend, Ďleave me. I want to go speak to Jack Strawí. Quickly I go to Jack Straw in the market, you have too many people, marketers, and you have election 2005. I said, ĎJack Straw, please can I talk to you?í He said ĎOkí. I said, ĎDo you know me?í He said, ĎNo, I donít know you. I told him, ĎI am Mahmoud Abu Rideh. I have control order. I have been in prison 2001í. ĎOh yes, I remember your name, what happened, what can I do to help?í ĎIím not a dangerous man. I am not with Al Qaida or anybody. I am a normal man. See me, I donít have tag now, the Home Office, the Judge and SIAC they take the tag but still I have curfew, I have control order. Look, I am not a dangerous man. I have not done anything in this country wrong. I donít want to kill anybody I donít want to bomb anybody I donít want thisí. He told me, ĎOkayí, he gave me his card, business card, Ďsend everything to my office. I know I believe you, you are not a dangerous maní. I said, if I am a dangerous man and nobody is with me, easily I attack him. But I didnít do anything wrong, I didnít do anything to him.
After one hour, I leave him and I go drink one cafť again with my friend. I go back home. After one hour, not ten, five minutes, one hour I go my house and I have car, I drive my car and I come back Northern Road and still Jack Straw in the street. He didnít escape, he didnít leave the place, he didnít leave Fulham, and I go to speak to him again. I said look I told Jack Straw I want to speak to you something. Youíve damaged already Iraq, youíve killed too many people in Iraq, donít go Iran again, enough. Maybe I am a dangerous man, easily I bring the knife and I kill you if I am some dangerous man and this would be big for al Qaida. I told Jack Straw I meet you in the street twice in one hour, after one hour I meet you again, and speak to you again, and nobody just me and you, just I talk to you and you have CCTV camera, maybe you have camera of some journalist with him, one journalist he follow him. I donít done anything. I speak to him like this Maybe I am a dangerous man, easily I kill you. Easily, I use my hand, easily I go bring knife, easy. You have too many halal shop in the street, but never I think like this. I do not want to kill people. Iím not with Al Qaida, Iím not dangerous. Maybe if I had done something it would have been big for al Qaida, it would be very big, this is Jack Straw; heís Jewish; he go Iraq, he killed hundred, a million people in Iraq, this guy - but itís not my business. I donít want anything with him, itís not my business. And I tell him like this and nothing.
MB: What did he say?
MAR: He laughed. I tell him, Iím not a dangerous man and heís not scared, heís not threatened, and heís not worried. And he smiled and goes home.