Document:Three Shattered Myths

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Disclaimer (#3)Document.png open letter  by Babar Ahmad  to Cage Prisoners dated 2005-01-26
Subjects: UK/Torture, UK/Police, Babar Ahmad
Source: Counterpunch (Link)

Written after 12 months in HM Prison Woodhill, pending legal challenges to a US extradition application. In spite of multiple rulings that there was "insufficient evidence" to charge Ahmad with any criminal offence under UK law, he was held for 8 years before being extradited to USA on October 6, 2012.

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Three Shattered Myths

During the last twelve months, there were three beliefs (or should I say myths) that I had about Britain, which have been shattered. I will attempt to elaborate on each of the three myths in turn and describe how they were shattered for me.

Myth 1. Torture does not exist in Britain

Prior to December 2003, I admit that I had a positive opinion about British Police. Since I had never been arrested before, my only experiences with the police were limited to asking directions from a polite ‘bobby’ or watching eloquent Police spokespersons on the TV. I knew that white Police officers in the US, South Africa, etc. regularly assault coloured people, including Muslims. However, I was under the impression that Britain has a whole different ethos based on human rights, etc. and these things just do not happen here. How stupid and naïve I was.

When, on that early morning on 02 December 2003, I heard my front door smashed open and saw several huge Police officers, wearing enough pads to put a cricketer to shame, coming upstairs, I was unsettled but had a good idea of what was to follow. I thought that a senior officer would ask to search my house, showing me a warrant, or in the worst case arrest me. Suddenly, I heard the first “F-word”, directed at me and I was shocked, thinking, “Police officers don’t swear on duty?” I had obviously not lived in Britain long enough. Then two of these beasts grabbed me and smashed my head into the bedroom window, shattering the glass and along with it, the myth that torture does not exist in Britain. Even then, I thought that some over-zealous racist Police officers just wanted to rough me up until the senior officer arrived. Little did I know that he was already there.

Then I was thrown face-down onto the floor and punched repeatedly by several policemen. One of the perverts reached down and tugged at my genitals. By then, I was paralysed; more with shock and disbelief than with pain. I was thinking to myself, “What is happening? These are Police officers? These are Anti-Terrorist Branch detectives? They are not supposed to be hitting me like this?” I really was a naïve, ignorant idiot. A naïve, ignorant, so-called ‘British Muslim’.

The next half-an-hour is history, which I have already recounted many times so I will not repeat it here. I can try to be macho and say that I handled the torture and pain. Or I can be a human being and say that they were the worst 30 minutes of my life, every minute of which was like a lifetime. The colour photographs of my injuries speak louder than any expert medical report or waffle from some articulate Home Office spokeswoman.

Torture does exist in Britain. The only difference between the torture in Britain and that, in say the US, is that ‘human rights’ groups are not brave enough to admit it.

Myth 2. Britain does not lock people up without good reason

Whilst I have always been sceptical of the actions of the US law enforcement authorities, I used to respect the professionalism of the British law enforcement authorities. I have to admit, that when I saw dozens of Muslims (mainly North-Africans) being rounded up in Britain post 9/11, I would always think that there must have been good reasons to lock these people up. I would say to myself, “The British authorities don’t lock people up for nothing. There is no smoke without fire. Maybe these people did have explosives, terrorist plans and maps in their possession?” Unlike countries such as France and the US, notorious for locking up anything with a beard and two legs, I used to think that the British are more professional: they pick the needle from the haystack rather than the whole haystack itself. How ignorant I was.

And then my own door was kicked down in December 2003, my houses ransacked and I saw for myself what seemed to be the basis of my arrest. For seven days, I was not questioned about any terrorist attacks, suicide bombers and explosives, but about my political views and opinions. My fingerprints, DNA and hair samples were sent to several countries around the world, including the US. Then I was released without charge. With a gift for my inconvenience: 50 injuries including blood in my ears and urine. How thoughtful of the Anti-Terrorist Branch.

I was re-arrested in August 2004 because I had to be silenced once and for all. After all, it doesn’t help the Government’s scaremongering ‘Anti-Terror’ agenda to have some little Paki going round whinging and whining to everyone about how he was tortured by the Anti-Terrorist Branch: one of the ‘elite’ Police departments in the country. I mean, talk of British detectives making fun of the Muslim prayer and throwing the Quran onto the floor doesn’t really go down too well in the conservative Arab world, especially when there are hearts and minds (and lucrative business contracts) to be won.

Having seen the ‘evidence’ upon which my re-arrest is based, I sometimes wonder whether it is a dream or reality. Am I in prison because of my father’s 1973 tourist brochure of the Empire State Building?

Britain does lock people up without good reason. I didn’t use to believe that myself until it happened to me. And during these last few months, I have met several others who have been locked up without good reason.

Myth 3. Formal written complaints achieve results in Britain

I had always been an admirer of Britain’s formal written complaints system: customer service, statutory rights, Ombudsmans, etc. Formal written complaints had always achieved results for me, whether Sainsbury’s reimbursing me for bitter-tasting Spanish strawberries or the Council cancelling an unjust parking ticket.

However, when it came to something a little more significant than strawberries and parking tickets, namely beating and torturing an unarmed man almost to death, I thought that this formal written complaints system would finally bear fruits when I needed it most. We made complaints to the Police, the ‘Independent’ (or should I say dependent?) Police Complaints Commission, the General Medical Council and the Home Office, to name but a few.

A year down the line, I am sitting in a 5m x 2m prison cell whilst Police have determined that their officers are innocent (surprise, surprise), the Crown Prosecution Service has said that there is ‘insufficient evidence’ to prosecute any Police officers, the ‘Independent’ Police Complaints Commission has sided with the police, the General Medical Council has not even started an investigation into the misconduct of the Police doctors who examined me, and the Home Office ‘refuses to comment’, as always.

Tomorrow it will be your turn and the turn of your children. If you decide to protest against unjust extradition and internment laws, then do it for the sake of your children, not for the sake of Babar Ahmad. When that time comes, Babar Ahmad could be having his face smeared by the menstrual blood of an American prostitute in Guantanamo Bay. Babar Ahmad could be dead. But at least you can’t say that he didn’t warn you. Next time you kiss or hug your child, look at his or her face and imagine that face being punched and kicked by a 7 foot Anti-Terrorist Branch Police officer. Next time you tell your MP that you won’t vote for them until they oppose these unjust extradition and internment laws, think about that face. That face is what you should campaign for. And that face is what is at stake if you choose to remain silent.

I read with interest the Guardian’s Special Report on British Muslims (Young, British and Muslim, 30th November 2004) and felt pity at these young, naïve, second-generation British Muslim professionals, going on about how they feel they are an equal part of today’s Britain. Poor souls, I thought. I used to be like you once upon a time.

You may not agree with what I have written. You may think that I have made far-fetched assumptions. You may believe that I am living in ‘cloud cuckoo land’. But at least you have to admit that I have seen from my clouds what you have not seen.

British Political Prisoner Babar Ahmad MX5383
HMP Woodhill, MK4 4DA