Prison ‘justified’ in restricting influence of preacher
A high-security prison governor acted reasonably when he took steps to prevent Abu Qatada, the Muslim preacher, ”radicalising” young Muslim inmates, the High Court ruled today.
Hmm, could it have anything to do with this:
- BBC NEWS | UK | Fears over Muslim prison ‘gangs’
- U.K.: Misunderstanders of Islam “exploiting growing prison gang …
- Islamophobes sound alarm over Muslim “radicalization” in British …
- Why can’t the current prison staff “face up” to the gangs? Who is in control ..?
Zebiba boy Abu Â Qatada
Judges ruled that action taken to restrict the possible “malign influence” of Qatada, 49, at Long Lartin in Worcestershire was justified and proportionate.
Qatada, whose real name is Omar Othman and who was once dubbed Osama bin Laden’s right-hand man in Europe, was described as an ”iconic figure for jihadists”.
He is among six Muslim international terror suspects who are unconvicted of any offence but held in a special detainee unit at Long Lartin.
The high-profile detainees face extradition requests from other countries for alleged terrorist offences but have launched legal challenges or cannot be deported because of the risk they will be tortured.
They include Khalid Al-Fawwaz, 47, and Adel Abdel Bary, 49, who are both wanted by the US authorities for conspiracy to murder American citizens in the synchronised bombings of US embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam in August 1998.
Qatada faces jail in Jordan for terrorism but alleges his conviction was based on evidence extracted by torture.
On Thursday, Lord Justice Aikens, sitting with Mr Justice Openshaw, rejected challenges to a decision by Long Lartin governor Ferdie Parker, in December 2008, to change the living conditions for all the detainees after Qatada returned to the unit.
The effect was to confine them to the unit for all purposes, except for health care and family visits, and ban them from mixing with other prisoners.
Qatada came from Belmarsh Prison in south-east London, where he was accused of attempting to “foment trouble” and inciting other prisoners to challenge authority.
The Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) described Qatada as “an individual who preaches violence and seeks to radicalise his audience”, the High Court heard.
Lord Justice Aikens said the case was not an easy one, but ultimately the court ruled the governor’s decision was reasonable.
The judge declared that a governor of a high-security prison “must have a wide discretion” with regard to Category A prisoners and those suspected of terrorist acts outside the UK, even if they were unconvicted.
The judge added: “Secondly, we accept that the key decision was the reappearance in the prison of Mr Othman.
“It is clear that he can â€“ and could in December 2008 â€“ exercise a malign influence on other Muslims, including prisoners, and in particular, on impressionable young men, many of whom might be susceptible to his brand of extremism.”
The ruling follows reports that radical Muslim gangs are imposing a form of Islamic law in the jail, with non-Muslim inmates being forced to stop playing “Western music” and to take down pictures of women in their cells.
According to a former prison officer interviewed by Radio 5 Live’s Donal MacIntyre Show on Sunday, younger prisoners were targeted for forced conversion to Islam by the gangs.
Lord Justice Aikens said the court had concluded that one element in the decision to introduce the regime change was “a fear of critical comment” by the press and media about Qatada’s position in the prison.
But that was not “the driving force” behind the move to stop all the terror detainees having contact with other inmates.
John Howell QC, representing the governor and Justice Secretary Jack Straw, argued that the move was reasonable, rational and proportionate and the detainees’ human rights were being protected.
The judges rejected claims by human rights lawyers that the “sudden and dramatic” change of regime in 2008 had led to “claustrophobic and depressing” conditions and was disproportionate and unjustified.
Tim Owen QC accused the governor of acting inconsistently, irrationally and failing in his duty to take steps to avoid human rights violations.
One detainee, Syed Talha Ahsan, a 30-year-old British national from Tooting, south west London, is wanted in the US accused of conspiracy to support terrorists by operating websites.
Al-Fawwaz first came to the unit in August 2007, Bary in November 2006 and Ahsan January 2007.
Other inmates at the unit include one who can only be referred to as “U”.
The 45-year-old faces allegations that he held a senior position in a Mujahideen training camp in Afghanistan and had direct links with bin Laden and other senior al-Qaida figures.
Steve Chambers, a dual US-Jamaican national who reverted to Islam in prison, has been detained there since January 2003 pending extradition to the US on non-terrorist murder and firearms offences and has an appeal pending before the European Court of Human Rights.
Muslim prison gangs on the rise
A rise in the number of British muslims entering UK prisons has led to an emerging presence of Islamic gangs. According to many inmates and former prison officers the gangs have become increasingly violent against non-muslims and have even been reported to be forcing non-religious prisoners to join the muslim gangs and convert. current