Extradition to France
Issue 201, Friday 27 January 2006 – 27 Dhu al-Hijjah 1426
Sir, I was interested to read your letter from the men held in Belmarsh. Since then two of these men have been extradited to France.
Rachid Ramda, a political prisoner, was extradited on December 1, after spending 10 years in Belmarsh, six and a half of these years in the Special Secure Unit.
Although I tried desperately to enlighten everyone to his plight, he was extradited with assurances from the Home Office that he would not be mistreated – and a deafening silence from his brothers in Islam.
Rachid is now held in solitary confinement 24 hours a day. He is exercised in a cage, built for one person, for an hour in the morning and afternoon. He has only ever seen a guard. The last image I have of Rachid is from a photograph in a French newspaper. He is being led from the plane dressed in a bright yellow and green boiler suit. His hands are handcuffed behind his back and a black hood, reminiscent of pictures from Abu Ghraib and Afghanistan, covers his head. A man, dressed in black with only his eyes seen behind a balaclava, forces Rachid’s head down.
I cried when I read Rachid’s account of his first sight of the sky for more than a decade. He wrote about his flight, “I did not expect to be calm but I was, don’t ask me, because I can’t explain it myself. I kept saying my prayers and my mind sank into a deep memory search. Happy and sad moments passed by. Sometimes I smile and sometimes I just swallow the bitterness of sadness in silence but it never left my mind that I am and always will be in the hands of Almighty Allah. I kept turning to the window and looking out at the glory of creation – endless skies and endless clouds. They formed a unique picture even Michelangelo himself can’t imagine. I always feel the presence of Allah around me but at that particular moment I felt his presence even bigger and warmer. I felt so humbled by this experience. At that very moment I knew Allah wanted to add another dimension to my life, not because I am special, but I think, because I have worshipped Him with every atom of my being (body and soul). I hope the Almighty Allah will accept from me, my devotion to him. Ameen.”
Mustapha Labsi’s extradition on December 17, quickly followed Rachid Ramda’s. The Home Office’s decision on Rachid opened the door for Mustapha and no doubt other extraditees will not be far behind. I understand that 80% of the French prison population are Muslims. What does this say about France?
I worry now that Rachid and Mustapha will eventually be deported to Algeria, renowned for the disappearances and systematic torture of their people. I am ashamed that my country is eager to return men to this fate whether by the French route or with proposed Memorandums of Understanding. These men and their families are desperate for support from the Muslim community. How much longer must they wait?
Scotland Against Criminalising Communities.