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News about Prisoners and Prisoner Rights

‘It is Because of Our Hearts that We have Come to Syria’: The Case of Oum Usama & The Myth of “Recruitment”

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On Wednesday 17 July Dutch authorities arrested a young Muslim woman, Oum Usama, a Dutch National of Somali origins in the small city of Zoetermeer, just sixteen kilometers east of Hague. Following two days of detention and interrogation, Oum Usama was arraigned at court on Friday 19 July where the presiding judge extended her detention for an additional two weeks, during which the state must decide how to precede.

According to a statement by Nicolette Stoel speaking on behalf of the Public Prosecutor’s office in The Hague, Oum Usama has since been transferred to an unknown location where she is being held incommunicado.

“The woman [Oum Usama] was arrested and has been remanded for two weeks while an investigation is underway… At this stage she is only allowed contact with her lawyer.”

The reason for her arrest and subsequent detainment stems from allegations that she “recruited” other Dutch nationals to travel abroad to take part in the conflict which has been raging in Syria for the past three years.

As it is not, as of yet, illegal for Dutch citizens to travel to Syria, the government is largely ineffectual at prohibiting travel to that country by any legal apparatus currently at the judicial system’s disposal. The inability to inhibit movement of Dutch Muslims and the resulting impotence has caused the State to instead focus on those who they can prosecute: the “recruiters”. Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on July 28, 2013 in Campaigns, News Items

 

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Lahsan Aacuk: Behind Bars for Helping Brothers Behind Bars

Lahsan AacukThe 28 year old Dutch citizen, Lahsan Aacuk, faces two or more years in a Moroccan prison while he awaits sentencing to take place on August 1st.

Currently hunger-striking since May in protest against inhumane treatment along with 24 other detainees, Lahsan is accused of recruiting fighters for the jihad in Syria.

His Moroccan compatriots have been convicted of similar Syria-related charges as some have recently returned from the war-torn country while others have been deported back to Morocco by Spain or Turkey and are now facing extensive sentences.

On Tuesday, April 16 Lahsan Aacuk was abducted in broad daylight by Moroccan intelligence services [DST] while visiting his sick mother in the At Tawaabil district of Tetouane in northern Morocco.

“I opened the door, and they jumped on me, men in civilian clothes. I was blindfolded, pushed into a van and taken to a police station in Casablanca for questioning. ‘We know many of you,’ they said. ‘We work with the AIVD.’ If I did not talk, they would abduct my brother. And they would claim that I am from Al Qaeda. I would be charged with the attacks in Boston and also prosecuted for recruiting fighters for the conflict Mali.”

It was later discovered that he was being held and further interrogated in the notorious Salé 2 prison.

I’m blindfolded, tied to a chair, kicked and beaten with sticks,” said Aacuk in a telephone interview with the Volkskrant in June. “They want to link me to Al-Qaeda.

He was later arraigned on vague charges of terrorism and it is expected to be found guilty of such charges.

Like many of the 4 million Moroccans that live abroad, Lahsan holds dual citizenship from both his native country and from the country he resides in, the Netherlands.

For nearly two months after his disappearance Moroccan authorities rejected claims of holding any Dutchman in custody and denied Dutch consular visits for the tortured man. It was not until June that prison authorities were finally presented with Lahsan’s papers indicating his Dutch citizenship.

Lahsan was not only disturbed by the interrogation methods, but also by the proximal presence of Dutch intelligence.

“Among the papers of the [Moroccan] interrogators was a Dutch paper with the logo of the AIVD. I also got a lot of questions about my Dutch friends and Dutch Syria-goers. It is strange that so many Moroccans want to know about the Netherlands. “

Although the GSIS refused to comment on its role in the recent interrogations, the AIVD states in it annual report that “cooperation between national and international organizations is necessary for the protection of Dutch interests.”

Last month Lahsan’s lawyer, Michiel Pestman, filed a complaint with the Interior Minister Ronald Plasterk claiming AIVD ‘wrongdoing’ against Lahsan.

The question of AIVD involvement is further complicated by its accusations that a grassroots Dutch-Moroccan prisoner rights organisation by the name of Behind Bars, may be involved with recruiting foreign fighters to Syria, the same organisation that Lahsan has been active in while living in Amsterdam.

Dutch intelligence and its alleged cooperation in the questioning of Moroccan prisoners is centered on a controversial theory of socialisation. “These [advocacy] movements have created an environment where like-minded people meet and where radical ideas have been able to develop into jihadist ideas. Group dynamics has led to rapid radicalization of many individuals,” claims a recent AIVD report.

The theory explains why an organisation like Behind Bars can be deemed guilty of conspiracy by merely providing a space to marginalised minorities to discuss politically adverse ideology.

The allegations come after a series of successful and high profile campaigns by Dutch-Moroccans demanding the end of human rights abuses and arbitrary detention in their home country. Past campaigns have highlighted graphic and grotesque interrogation methods leaked to global media by prisoner testimonies, much to the chagrin of Moroccan authorities.

Paolo de Mas, an expert on Moroccan affairs, explains that Moroccan intelligence has been closely surveilling the Moroccan diaspora for their participation in demonstrations critical of Moroccan domestic policies and is actively asserting its intelligence muscle as it it feels threatened by dissidents living abroad.

According to Human Rights Watch, the Moroccan government has conducted mass arrests on the populations activists and salafists since the first Casablanca bombings in 2003. Mere suspicion of connections to terrorism or subversive activities are enough to warrant indefinite detention and torture. HRW claims that majority of such detainees are convicted and sentenced after unfair trials.

 
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Posted by on July 27, 2013 in News Items

 

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The Family of Aafia Siddiqui on the Recent Development Regarding Repatriation

The Family of Aafia Siddiqui and the Aafia Movement welcome the news that it appears some steps are finally being taken towards the repatriation of Aafia Siddiqui, the daughter of our Nation. Of course the previous government also made numerous statements but neglected to follow through by actions. We are hopeful that this government will demonstrate by actions rather than words.

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While we welcome Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar’s efforts and actions, there are certain clarifications we want to make regarding what is being said in the media and what we understand.

The Interior Ministry had received a letter from USA in 2010 regarding how sentenced prisoners can be repatriated. This was shared at a press conference by the then Interior Minister Rehman Malik. However it was never pursued.

There is a mention of two treaties:

1. The inter-American convention on serving criminals abroad 1993 and

2. The Convention of the Council of Europe on serving criminal sentences abroad.

Though technically both are similar they differ in that the inter-american treaty has fewer countries and involves USA directly and any prisoner can be returned within a month of ratification. The Council of Europe is a longer and more tedious process as America holds an observer status and many more countries are involved.

Of note is that these are NOT in any-way for prisoner SWAP or EXCHANGE or freedom. They only allow a convicted prisoner who has exhausted all legal options be sent to his/her country of citizenship to complete the sentence in home country.

According to the transfer of offenders ordinance 2002 now implemented by the legislature of Pakistan, the Interior Ministry has to initiate and direct the foreign office to proceed.

Since America has accessed the treaty, if Pakistan does so it will open a path to bring back several Pakistani prisoners serving inhumane sentences in the member countries and vice versa. We hope that one of them will be Aafia.

What the Interior Minister’s “Free Aafia task force committee” has recommended is a list of 10 points, according to media reports. The committee has refused to share those with Aafia’s family or lawyer, which makes one wonder if this hype is a bit premature or a smokescreen to dampen the growing support for Aafia and cool the sentiments of people during Ramadan. Dr. Aafia’s sister, Dr. Fowzia will go to Islamabad in the hope that the points are shared and a positive way forward can be achieved. Dr. Fowzia appreciates the committee’s rapid action and the Interior Minister’s resolve in this matter. She thanks the Media for its vigilance in this matter and hopes the media will clarify common myths and misunderstandings and continue to monitor practical follow through on the positive verbal statements.

In the end, the family of Dr. Aafia can only believe credible and documented efforts that achieve results. Years of rhetoric and broken promises at the highest levels have confirmed that words in the absence of results are either outright lies to sooth sentiments or demonstrate incompetence of the worst kind.

We, like all people of Pakistan, hope that this government will demonstrate results on all the challenges facing Pakistan. Aafia’s repatriation is an easy early result that will validate their sincerity about all issues.

 
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Posted by on July 20, 2013 in Bushara, News Items

 

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A Web of Suffering: Syria’s Network of Terror Centres

Regime intelligence services are running an “archipelago of torture centers scattered across the country”, according to a report released by Human Rights Watch (HRW).

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The NGO interviewed hundreds of detainees and defectors who confirmed that there are twenty-seven facilities across Syria where the use of acid burning, sexual assault and nail-pulling have been used.

The existence of these facilities and types of torture techniques were confirmed by multiple witnesses. HRW have called it a ‘crime against humanity’ and said that this could be the tip of the iceberg – that many more centers could exist.

Last year, when reports began to leak out of the torture centers in Syria, Jonathan Miller, foreign affairs correspondent for Channel 4, presented the mounting body of evidence to ministers in the Assad government. The Syrian regime fiercely denied these accusations and continues to do so.

In an American television interview last year, President Assad said:

“We don’t kill our people. No government in the world kills its people unless it’s led by a crazy person.”

The HRW report comes as Assad puts through a series of new ‘anti-terrorist’ laws. According to the parliamentary bills:

“Those who are direct members of a terrorist group may be sentenced to 10 to 20 years in prison with hard labor, but the punishment will be harder if the goal is to change the regime or the nature of the state.”

Critics said the new laws are clearly targeting members of the opposition and will likely lead to increased detentions in centers where torture is a known interrogation technique.

Although most of the detainees interviewed were men between the ages of 18 and 35, women and children were also amongst the victims.

One 31-year-old detainee spoke to HRW about his experiences in Idlib Central Prison:

“They forced me to undress. Then they started squeezing my fingers with pliers. They put staples in my fingers, chest and ears. I was only allowed to take them out if I spoke. The staples in the ears were the most painful. They used two wires hooked up to a car battery to give me electric shocks. They used electric stun-guns on my genitals twice. I thought I would never see my family again. They tortured me like this three times over three days.”

There are now calls to get the International Criminal Court involved but the court would only have jurisdiction via the UN Security Council, and with Russia still at odds with the rest of the members, this seems unlikely to happen.

 
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Posted by on July 20, 2013 in News Items

 

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Breaking: Afia Siddiqi Possibly to Be Returned to Pakistan

Insha’Allah our Sister Aafia may be returned to Pakistan in a recently reported (see below) prisoner “exchange” agreement that is alleged to have been reached with the United States. We are hopeful that this is true, however there are still many things left unclear, namely when and if this exchange is to occur and what are the conditions of Dr. Siddiqi’s incarceration in her native country, as it seems one of the conditions of the exchange is that she completes her sentence in Pakistan. How much of that 86 year sentence she would be required to complete, as well in what type of facility she would be detained in all remain to be clarified.

We ask Allah to free her and all of our prisoners, and we are hopeful that this is a step forward to sister Aafia returning to her family, and children free and healthy.

In a major breakthrough, the US has offered Pakistan to sign prisoner swap agreement for the extradition of Dr Aafia Siddiqi, after which the Pakistani scientist will be allowed to serve the remaining part of her imprisonment in homeland.

Talking to a private TV channel, the spokesperson of the foreign office Umar Hameed also confirmed that the US has offered Pakistan to sign prisoner swap agreement after which both countries will release each others prisoners.

According to the documents, the US told Pakistan in writing that the only legal way for the extradition of Dr Aafia Siddiqi was to sign prisoner swap agreement with the US. The US offered two deals that include European Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons and Convention on Serving Criminal Sentences Abroad in this regard.

Meanwhile, it was also revealed that the Interior Ministry had formed a task force following the US offer which held its first session on July 3 to review the agreement.

The task force was established under the directives of Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, the channel said.

The Pakistani neuroscientist was sentenced to 86 years in prison after she was convicted of grabbing a US soldier s M-4 assault rifle and trying to shoot a group of FBI agents and soldiers at an Afghan police compound in July 2008, a charge she consistently denied during the trial.

 
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Posted by on July 19, 2013 in Bushara, News Items

 

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Worrying Trend of Abuse in UK Category A Prison HMP Belmarsh

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Michael Adebolajo a Muslim inmate at notorious prison HMP Belmarsh has been reported by news outlets and the prison service to have received injuries requiring immediate medical attention.

The prison service said the attack occurred on Wednesday 17 July but otherwise refused to confirm reports that Adebolajo had suffered injuries to his mouth or that he had been singled out for attack by prison officers.

A spokeswoman for the prison service said:

“The police are investigating an incident that took place at HMP Belmarsh on 17 July. It would be inappropriate to comment while the investigation [is] ongoing.”

While a Met Police spokesman said:

“We can confirm an allegation of assault was passed to us on July 17 by Belmarsh Prison.”

However the BBC reported that Adebolajo, 28, was receiving medical treatment after having lost two teeth in the brutal attack by prison service staff.

This is not the first time Belmarsh has been in the spotlight for it’s staff’s abuse and mistreatment of prisoners. In January 2005 epileptic Godfrey Moyo, 25, who was on remand, died after being restrained face down on the floor of his cell where he was left bound for twenty minutes after having suffered a seizure.

The tragic death of Moyo is not the only fatality to have occurred at one of Britain’s most notorious prisons, dubbed Britain’s Guantanamo, a 2011 report revealed that four people died at Belmarsh prison in the previous year alone. Inquests into the deaths of inmates have taken up to three years to conduct, and currently there are eight deaths which occurred in Belmarsh awaiting investigation, dating as far back as 2008.

Abuse by the Prison Service regarding the Disability Discrimination Act have also occurred and it is apparent that the Prison Service has systematically demonstrated a lack of compassion, discriminatory treatment of disabled persons, and neglect of disabled persons with regards both the law and human decency.

A report conducted in January of this year found that the medical conditions in Belmarsh were “below par” and several severely mentally ill inmates, in dire need of specialised care have been waiting for more than a year for adequate care conditions.

It is believed that Adebolajo was attacked when warders attempted to “restrain him”, this does not seem to be an isolated incident as there have been previous allegations that Belmarsh’s Dedicated Search Team (DST) conducted aggravated assaults, both physical and sexual in nature upon prisoners resulting in both physical and psychological damage. One such attack was the 12th January assault on the handicapped Shaikh Abu Hamza al-Misri by a group of prison staff.

Whether the recent attack on Adebolajo is resultant of a climate of abuse which is systemic in nature and general to all inmates, or is targeted against Muslims and other minorities alone, is presently indeterminable, however the events of July 17 leave another black mark on the already ill reputed record of the prison service and HMP Belmarsh.

 
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Posted by on July 19, 2013 in News Items

 

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Arbitrary Detentions & Systemic Torture Continue in the UAE

United Arab Emirates state security officers have subjected detainees to systematic mistreatment, including torture, say hand-written letters from detainees smuggled out of jails, Alkarama, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said today. The groups obtained twenty-two statements written by some of the ninety-four people on trial for allegedly plotting to overthrow the government. The mistreatment described in the letters is consistent with other allegations of torture at UAE state security facilities, and indicates that torture is a systematic practice at these facilities.

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The statements describe conditions in pre-trial detention in varying levels of detail. Several detainees describe mistreatment that clearly meets the definition of torture as outlined in article 1 of the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which the UAE ratified in July 2012.

“I was beaten with a plastic tube all over my body,” one detainee said. “I was tied to a chair and threatened with electrocution if I didn’t talk. I was insulted and humiliated.

The UAE’s judicial system will lose all credibility if these allegations are swept under the carpet while the government’s critics are put behind bars,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Unless the government investigates and takes action, it will be hard to avoid concluding that torture is routine practice in the UAE.

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Posted by on July 19, 2013 in News Items

 

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