Interview with Abdul Baset Azzouz

Written by Asim Qureshi Wednesday, 23 April 2008
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daughter of Abdul Baset Azzouz daughter of Abdul Baset Azzouz

Abdul Baset Azouz, a British resident in the UK with a family that are citizens, has faced deportation to his home country Libya since May 2006. Having been declared “not conducive to the public good” by the Home Secretary. Azouz has faced detention, control orders and the harsh prospect of facing torture at the hands of the Libyans on return. He speaks to Cageprisoners about his two year ordeal.

CP: Could you please introduce yourself?

ABA: My name is Abdul Baset Azouz – I live in Manchester with my wife and four children.

CP: How long have you been in the UK?

ABA: Since January 1994

CP: When did your problems begin?

ABA: My problems began when they arrested us Libyans in 2006 – 24th May 2006 to be exact. They said there was a problem with national security.

CP: What happened when they came to arrest you?

ABA: They raided us at 3:00am, broke down the door and rushed in. There were about 15-20 policemen. They came straight to the bedroom, but I had already started walking out having been alarmed over the noise that they had made. I went into the corridor where they grabbed me and rushed me into the room of my youngest children; there they beat me and cuffed me in front of my scared girls. They kept on telling me to shut up and would not tell me anything. While I was cuffed, they kept on hitting me on the back of my head, pushing me down to ground so that I was in agony.

My eldest sons thought that they were thieves and had picked up their chairs to defend themselves. They took my sons, Hamza and Abdur Rahman, and pushed them at the back of their heads. They also refused to give my wife her hijaab (head covering) despite her constant appeals to give her one. After 30 minutes, they told me that they had arrested me for immigration reasons due to national security and wanted to send me to Libya. They took me to the police station and from there to Manchester prison where I was held as a CAT A prisoner.

CP: What law is being used to detain you?

ABA: I really don’t know – all I know is that the Home Secretary made a statement that I am a threat to national security and that I should be sent to Libya. I do not know anything more than that.

CP: What does it mean to be part of the SIAC process?

ABA: SIAC plays games with Muslims. They are using secret evidence – they have made this law just for Muslims. They said that we have contact with terrorists such as the Libyan Fighting Group who are supposed to have Al Qaeda’s ideology. When I asked where the evidence for this is, all I was told was that it was secret.

CP: What other evidence do they have, they must have something?

ABA: There was and is none! My barrister told me that they had no tangible evidence against me. My barrister said that as soon as he finished reading through the files the government sent him, he said he felt tempted to throw them in the bin; that is how useful they were in terms of evidence against me.

CP: When did you receive bail?

ABA: After nine and half months, due to various illnesses I suffer from, I received bail. Due to my conditions, I need to be near a hospital, even my GP told the SIAC proceedings that I needed to be near a hospital.

CP: What do you suffer from?

ABA: I have rheumatoid arthritis, depression, asthma and injured ligaments in my leg. These culminate to make my life extremely difficult.

CP: What does it mean to be under a bail order?

ABA: It is prison, no different at all. In fact, in many ways it is worse. They have imprisoned me and my family and because of that they are the ones who are suffering the most. Further, because of the way we have been treated, everyone thinks we are terrorists and because of that, have shunned us. Due to the strict conditions that have been placed on me, my children are not even allowed to have a computer.

CP: How has this ordeal affected your children?

ABA: My children are suffering – from the first day to now, they suffer. They cannot travel or go anywhere without me. Due to the travel restrictions, due to the boundary I am not allowed to cross, there are many places that we cannot go. I cannot go to the hospital for blood tests every two months as I am required to do by my doctors as the hospital requires permission through the solicitor and sometimes that permission is denied. I am currently fighting to have a hospital included in my area – it is only half a mile from my home.

Shopping is another problem – especially for my family. My children want me to take them shopping and yet they have not included a single shopping centre within my allowed boundary. The children feel this most at Eid time when they are not able to go with me to buy new clothes for themselves.

CP: What are the time restrictions of your order?

ABA: Sometimes I want to go with my family to different places after their school ends, and I am not able to do so, I am restricted by this boundary and because of that, so are they. I am not allowed to pray in the mosque five times a day. Sometimes the community meets for the Eid festival outside my allowed boundary and the same goes for other religious events or functions. I feel as if the boundary has excommunicated me and my family from the entire community.

CP: Do you have any messages for our readers?

ABA: This is not fair – if there have been problems with me, take me to the court and try me for a crime I have committed – but not like this, not in such a horrible way as they are doing now. All of our Libyan friends in the UK have run away from us. I would urge Muslims and non-Muslims to see us as humans who have done nothing wrong, yet the government is trying to use us to play a game to show that they are dealing with terrorists. Please do not forget us, and we leave all of our trust with Allah SWT.

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