After months of dignified silence while their father has been repeatedly publicly vilified in an unprecedented high-level political and media campaign, the children of Mohammed Othman (Abu Qatada) have now written an open letter on Twitter refuting some of the press misinformation about them, and detailing what they describe as escalating oppressive practices of the British government. They reveal too some of the extreme difficulties of their young lives in recent weeks and months, and the fact that threatening messages have become something they have learned to live with.
“We are just like a punching bag for anyone,” the oldest son, Qatada, said today, describing why the children of this very private family felt they could no longer keep silent.
The letter highlights the systematic pressure of the media outside their previous house, once their father was allowed out on bail, and how it has drawn in demonstrations.
“The press would stand outside the house and incite passers-by to harass us and sign petitions to get us evicted. They would do the same thing with our neighbours. This incitement encouraged racist pressure groups to hold demonstrations outside the house on a weekly basis between four in the afternoon and eleven in the evening. These demonstrators would scream and curse at us and at Islam.”
The letter describes how in their previous home the landlord himself was subjected to the pressure of enormous media attention. The family had to leave. Far from them asking the government to move them to a bigger house, as has been constantly reported, the government insisted their father, freed on a court order, be in a house the government found. By now, in fact, it was impossible to find a landlord ready to let to them, given the constant repetition by government figures at all levels about how dangerous and undesirable their father is. The media campaign against him has become became part of the political project of the government to defy the court ruling and force him to return to Jordan to face a trial where all the evidence against him was obtained by torture.