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Conference Report On Anti Terror Laws and Punishment Without Trial

End Unlawful Imprisonment | 08.09.2005 23:01 | Repression | Social Struggles | Terror War | Birmingham



Chair NAEEM MALIK (Birmingham Guantanamo Campaign).

NUSRAT CHUGTAI (Public Interest Lawyers) outlined three of the cases the firm were currently working on.
The alleged unlawful killing and abuse of Bahar Mousa by British soldiers. This was not a case where the British were under threat. Bahar Mousa was in British custody. Iraqi prisoners were beaten for not remembering the names of British footballers. The British government argues that the European Convention on Human Rights is not applicable in Iraq, as Iraq is not in Europe and is not a democratic country.

Indefinite detention without trial in Iraq – equivalent of Guantanamo Two British nationals are being held in Iraq. One is a dual national being held by the British. This detention has been justified by a decision of the UN Security Council. This is being challenged on the basis that the UN should protect human rights.

Decision to go to war illegal – acting on behalf of soldiers’ families. The government is sending soldiers to job centres in poor areas to recruit soldiers to send to Iraq. One 19-year old sent to Iraq with very little training and equipment was blown up by a road-side bomb. Public Interest Lawyers is trying to obtain accountability from the state on behalf of soldiers’ families.

AZMAT BEGG (father of Moazzam Begg, released from illegal detention in Guantanamo Bay earlier this year) condemned the London bombings, saying that Muslims were not in favour of such attacks. He stressed the need to look at root causes such as Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan. Also Guantanamo Bay where innocent people suffer at the hands of the USA – we must do everything possible to stop what is happening there. People are being sent from here to the US as if we were the 53rd state of the US. He urged those present to work to prevent the extradition of Babar Ahmad to the USA.

NAEEM MALIK from the chair pointed out that the conference was taking place at difficult time. It is no longer a question of losing individual liberties but of losing individual lives. Minority communities need the support of wider communities – to come together to fight for civil liberties. He then outlined the structure of the conference.

HANI LAZIM (Iraqi Democrats Against Occupation) observed that what is happening in Iraq is two to three times as big as the outrage in London – and it is happening every day. The occupying forces were responsible for every death in Iraq because they disbanded the Iraqi state. The biggest problem in the Middle East is not Bin Ladin but Britain and USA. They created the borders, created the dictators, the coups. They silenced the democrats, the socialists, the leftists and encouraged the radical movements. Bush and Blair deny that what happened in London is linked to Palestine, Chechnya, Iraq, Afghanistan, but people in this country are not stupid. Invasion and occupation of Iraq has failed. It is part of the American plan to control and rule Iraq.
Iraqis understood that Saddam was supported by the West.
Iraqi people are composed of Sunni, Shia, Kurds, Arabs etc, but all are Iraqi and will resist attempts to divide them.

The Iraqi Governing Council has ruled that three-quarters majority needed to pass laws so it is very difficult to get new legislation passed. Alawi has no control over the state or the police and has no money. All money is controlled by the US. After the collapse of fascist Germany it was five years before an election was held. In Iraq an election was called straight away to bring back Saddam’s henchmen.

The USA use children as shields in the poorest parts of Iraq. Just recently 32 children died, including a four day old baby, and 31 were injured. These are atrocities that happen every day in Iraq.
The occupiers are using the Iraqi economy and trying to privatise it by stealth. The oil workers have formed a strong trade union and are fighting privatisation.

MATLOOB In relation to the recent bombings he asked what the implications would be for him as a Kashmiri and Muslim? We would need to be careful about which groups to associate with. He was not involved in political activity and did not attend big anti-war march in 2003, but his house was raided by the drugs squad and his wife strip searched. Others raided under the pretext of drugs.

LOCHLINN PARKER (Campaign Against Criminalising Communities – CAMPACC) said that it was founded in 2001 in response to Terrorism Act 2000. This Act had banned 21 organisations based on national liberation struggles (now 26). CAMPACC believes there should be no special laws, that existing laws are sufficient. Anti-terrorism laws target minorities and refugees fleeing persecution. It has had a major impact on communities. CAMPACC campaigns against such measures as they destroy the fabric of society. Pressure is put on migrants to spy on their communities.
CAMPACC is trying to get PKK and Peoples Mujahideen Organisation of Iran removed from the list of banned organisations.
Involved in the following projects:
- Review of private security companies who do tagging, monitoring etc. Large profits being made on peoples’ misery.
- Setting up a Trade Union Committee on civil liberties to increase the pressure on TUs to campaign about civil liberties and to raise awareness of civil liberties issues in TUs.
- Investigating the phenomenon of ‘terror experts’ and their version of the truth. They should be known as ‘embedded academics’ because of their uncritical analysis of the government line.
- Organising a conference in Autumn to get academics who are not embedded to speak and give accurate information.
- Supporting Babar Ahmad campaign against extradition.
- Working with State Watch on a website that monitors and explains the process of proscription and asset freezing.
Want to build links with Birmingham.

Iraqi cases funded by legal aid.
Public Interest Lawyers using both European Convention on Human Rights and the Geneva Convention, but independent evidence needed for Geneva Convention.
CAMPACC will help individuals targeted by the police by supporting campaigns and raising issues with MPs.


Chair AHMAD (Birmingham Guantanamo Campaign)

MRS BABAR AHMAD (Wife of Babar Ahmad who is facing extradition to the US) described her fight to prevent the extradition of her husband to the US. Babar Ahmad was arrested by the British authorities in December 2003. The police searched the house from top to bottom but found nothing and he was released without charge six days later. On his release he had 50 injuries to his body. He was arrested again in August 2004 on an Extradition Warrant from the US. He is accused of raising money for Chechen and Afghan rebels.

She went on to say that the American authorities are not people you can trust with the well being of a British citizen. She referred to prisons like Abu Ghraib, Bagram and Diego Garcia, and also to the process of ‘rendition’ whereby ‘suspected’ people are taken, by private jet, to third countries like Jordan, Morocco and Pakistan where it is known that torture is used. There are still over 500 people detained without trial in Guantanamo Bay.

The new extradition treaty allows the US to request a person’s extradition without providing evidence. In the extradition hearing, Judge Timothy Wakeman said it was a ‘difficult and troubling case’. He also said that that if the evidence were available Babar could be prosecuted in this country. The extradition treaty was signed by David Blunkett on a state trip to the USA, however, the US would not extradite a US citizen to Britain without evidence.

Muslims are being demonised, as was the Irish community in the 1970s and Afro-Caribbeans in the 80s. Ali Amari entered the US in 2002 for Bradley University graduation ceremony and was taken by the military after being labelled as an ‘enemy combatant’ by President Bush. No-one knows where he is. He had already been acquitted by a District Judge in America.
Babar now waits for the rubber stamp of Charles Clarke – expected mid-September.

BUSHRA IRFANULLAH (Human Rights Lawyer) stressed the importance of the presumption of innocence. There was a saying that it is better to let 11 guilty people go free that condemn one innocent man. The government is ignoring evidence of abusive treatment at Guantanamo Bay and Belmarsh. Described a recent visit to America when she was told to put ‘high security search’ on her ticket because she was a Muslim.

MARY PEARSON (Troops Out Movement, Vice President of Birmingham Trades Council)
explained that she would have to leave early as she was going on to Tolpuddle martyrs festival.

She had personal experience of the Terrorism Act (PTA passed in 1974) She had been stopped many times at ports of entry. 18 months ago she was stopped and held for two hours at Holyhead. She was asked about her political opinions and family. They appeared to be trawling for information.

Her house was raided after the Harrods bombing in 1983. They arrived at 5.30 am and stayed until 10.30 am. Had warrant under Criminal Damage Act to look for explosives. They went through books, photographs and letters but failed to search all rooms and an outhouse. She made a complaint about their failure to search properly. The local newspaper reported that a Sparkhill house had been raided under the Terrorism Act.

She said that those of us who know have a responsibility to speak out – to counter the intimidation and shadow of suspicion. She went on radio and spoke out at public events.
She commented about John Humphries (from BBC’s Today programme) trying to make people from Muslim communities accept some responsibility for the bombings. This made her very angry – just like after the Birmingham Pub bombings.
Terrorism legislation creates an atmosphere of suspicion.
She quoted figures showing that only a very small percentage of those arrested under terrorism legislation were charged with any offence. One man was charged with fiddling his gas meter!
Terrorism legislation is used to intimidate people who are politically active and to prevent those who are not from becoming involved.
She ended by reading a statement from Troops Out Movement on the London bombings putting the blame for the violence on the Blair/Bush agenda. (See TOM statement)

PHYLLIS BRAZIER (Birmingham Guantanamo Campaign) said that the campaign had made use of emails to circulate information to large groups of people, but had also done street stalls in order to meet and engage with people directly. In the run up to the local elections last year, the campaign asked the local council to support a motion calling on the British government to repatriate British citizens still incarcerated in Guantanamo Bay. On the day the motion a vigil was held outside the Council House with banners, placards and people in orange boiler suits. Azmat Begg, supported the vigil. The motion was passed unanimously and there was coverage in the local press.

The Campaign mobilised people to write letters to Birmingham MPs and organised a public meeting in Moazzam Begg’s constituency to which all Birmingham MPs were invited. Roger Godsiff, Moazzam’s MP, who had been extremely unhelpful in the past, agreed to lead a delegation of Birmingham MPs to the Foreign Office

To mark International Human Rights Day in December last year, the campaign worked with Birmingham TUC, Peace and Progress, Respect, Stop Political Terror and South Asian Alliance to hold a vigil.

The remaining British citizens were released from Guantanamo Bay earlier this year, but we are still campaigning for the British residents still held at Guantanamo. Also, it seemed logical to campaign on the basis of no imprisonment without trial and to support cases here and link up with other campaigns. This also means campaigning against the anti-terror laws – and as such, we supported the CAMPACC lobby of MPs in March. We held a public meeting in April entitled ‘War on Terror or War on the Community?’

During the election campaign we organised a hustings attended by Green Party, Liberal Democrats, Peace and Progress and Respect. In the last few weeks we have been collecting signatures for the petition against Babar Ahmed’s extradition to the US. Over 1500 signatures were handed to Babar Ahmed’s family a couple of weeks ago.

The campaign recognises the need for exchange of information, co-operation and mutual support – and this is part of the rationale for the conference today. The fact that the bombs went off makes it even more essential that we continue to raise issues of human rights, due process, Guantanamo Bay, no imprisonment without trial. We have to come to the support of Muslims who have been attacked and to the defence of those picked up under the anti-terror legislation. The government will bring in new anti-terror legislation and probably tighter immigration laws. Expressed hope that subsequent discussions would come up with practical proposals and ways of working together.

VARINDER (Manchester Guantanamo and Belmarsh Committee) The Committee was started last year. Charles Clarke was already threatening new legislation so we mobilised against the Terrorism Act 2005. The judiciary and the police are in cahoots so it is essential that we should not just work through the legislative framework. Proposed broadening the campaign to include two strands:

1. Community defence – not only defence from physical attack but also from the media.

2. Stop criminalisation of communities. The north-west has become very tense with incidents in Oldham, Bradford and Leeds.

KAMEL HAWWASH (A Palestinian living in Birmingham) At the turn of the century only 6% of the population of Palestine was Jewish. Following the Balfour Declaration of 1917 there was mass immigration of Jews into Palestine. 1948, the founding of Israel was declared on the back of terrorism. 800,000 Palestinians were driven out by terrorism. Zionists would go into a village, kill some people and the rest would flee. In 1967 Israel occupied West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem, Sinai and the Golan Heights.

The Palestinian Authority was formed following Madrid conference and Oslo Accords.
In 1995 Rabin was assassinated.
Sharon’s plan leaves Palestinians in cantons on only10% of their land. This will not be a just solution and therefore will not lead to peace.
The second Intifada started when Sharon visited Al Aqsa mosque – it was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

On 9 July 2004 the International Court of Justice ruled that the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza was illegal as was the construction of the separation wall on occupied Palestinian land. More than 4000 homes have been destroyed since 2000, over a million trees uprooted and Israeli waste is being dumped in the West Bank. 8000 Palestinians are being held, many of them without charge or trial with no prospect of a fair trial.

More pressure needs to be exerted on Israel to accept International Law.
Palestinians are asking for a boycott of Israeli institutions. BDS – boycotts, divestments and sanctions.

FRANCES KELLY (Member of UNISON, Manchester Community & Mental Health Branch) Proposed practical way forward by involving trade unions. For example, if a union working with the victims of the London bombings condemned the so-called anti-terror laws, it can make the debate ‘respectable’.
UNISON has a policy that is critical of the current so-called anti-terror laws; that a union is an organisation first and foremost but it is also a collection of 1.3 million individuals, so it is a sizeable section of the public. It is an organisation of workers in the workplace, mainly in the public sector so there are specific issues around that.
Branches meet about once a month. We would need to know the dates for the submission of resolutions for example. Most union officials are overloaded so the campaign could write articles for local branch newsletters, supply speakers – and can ask for small donations. The TUC conference is coming up in the Autumn but it is too late to organise for the issue to be raised through UNISON or any other union. This is a missed opportunity.
On issues of civil liberties, right to a fair trial, freedom of association and support for liberation struggles would be difficult for unions not to support.

MUDASSAR (Muslim Public Affairs Committee – largest UK Muslim website with 6 million hits per month) Described the London bombings as criminal attacks. Said that people get angry and that anger is not channelled correctly. Mosques have been totally negligent and have not guided the anger in the right direction. Many people on the streets of Blackburn for example are very angry about foreign policy, but the people running the mosques are older and not interested in rocking the boat. They did not support the campaign against Jack Straw, saying that whatever you do it would not make a difference. This is a breeding ground for extremism.
Mosques are not very democratic. They should teach the tools of political participation and employ English speaking Imams. Scholars such as Tariq Ramadan should be involved.

Final Session

NAEEM/INTRO - need to discuss way forward – now more critical and dangerous.
CAMPACC had organised national lobbies of MPs and petitions.
A conference on ‘the Right to Protest’ would be taking place on October - should we all mobilise to attend?
Can we develop a minimum programme on which to campaign and involve other organisations?
Suggest targeting TUs, other organisations, Imams in mosques, as street work difficult in present climate.
Need to work out how to oppose anti-terror legislation – more will be introduced and defend the right to struggle for national liberation and self-determination.


Communities criminalised. Questions of survival and self-defence.
We should encourage mainstream organisations to take up issues.
Develop consensual network.
Corporate interests – expose who profits.
Use Indymedia
Have open publishing – people can contribute and comment.
‘Civil society’ has changed.
Issues crossover with ‘right to protest’
During G8 Scottish Common Law was abused.
Need broad alliance – not just Muslims, all people.
Suggest we attend other events – Hiroshima commemoration coming up in August for example.
We need to pressurise organisations who say they support us to do something positive about it.
We should not delude ourselves – anti-terror legislation will be passed in present climate.
Proposal that campaign produce a powerpoint presentation similar to that of Babar Ahmad’s campaign - could be shown at meetings etc.
Need discussion to be more equal – not experts and others.
Proposal that we attempt to create a political, safe place for street activity. When BGC and G8 had stalls side by side it was very positive. Created lots of discussion. Maybe link with Dissent and ‘Food not Bombs’.
Concern about what will happen to the Muslim community – should we produce a leaflet?
Need to build solidarity amongst different groups and individuals.
Maintain contacts.
Keep everyone up to date.

The following resolution was put to the conference.


This conference extends its deepest sympathy to the friends and families of those who died, and all those affected in the bomb attacks in London on
7 July 2005. We do not support the killing of innocent people and do not think that such actions contribute in any way to our fight for fairness and justice.

We remember also the tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians killed as a result of Bush and Blair’s ‘War on Terror’. These innocent victims are not honoured with names and faces, we know nothing of their hopes and aspirations – they are the ‘collateral damage’ of the occupation. As one American military spokesman said ‘we don’t do body counts’. US and British deaths are meticulously documented however.

Such double standards are seen also in British and US support for Israel’s brutal occupation of Palestine and their failure to seek the enforcement of UN resolutions. Western countries do not even acknowledge the continuing civilian death toll in Kashmir and Chechnya and 800,000 Rwandans were massacred while the west stood by and argued about definitions. Over 500 Muslims are still held, illegally, without charge or trial, in Guantanamo Bay and as many as 2000 more in secret prisons around the world. In Britain people are being imprisoned without trial on suspicion of being terrorists, and others such as Babar Ahmed are threatened with fast track extradition to the United States.

It is not disrespectful to the dead to ask why? – in fact it is our duty. Terrorism is not an abstraction – it feeds on injustice, unfairness and inequality. It cannot be dismissed as insanity, or, as Tony Blair has said, an evil ideology. And labelling a particular religion, in this case, Islam, is yet another double standard. The Serbs who ordered and carried out the massacre of 8000 Muslims at Srebrenica are not called Christian terrorists.

We have a responsibility to challenge the present unjust world order, to speak out against threats to our civil liberties and to struggle politically for our rights and for the rights of the oppressed peoples of the world.

July 05

End Unlawful Imprisonment
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  1. STATEMENT FROM TROOPS OUT MOVEMENT ON THE LONDON BOMBINGS — read out by Mary Pearson at the conference