Today [23 Oct 2007] I witnessed a serious crime. It was committed in broad daylight in front of fifty or so witnesses in the High Court in Edinburgh, Scotland. The perpetrator of this crime was the British State which, through a judge, Lord Carloway, sentenced Mohammed Atif Siddique, a young Muslim male, aged 21 years, to 8 years imprisonment. He was sentenced under the provisions of British anti-terror laws for the heinous act of browsing various Islamist websites and expressing his sympathies with Al Qaeda, the Iraqi Resistance, and the Palestinian Intifada to a few of his fellow students at the university at which he was studying.
He was arrested in April 2006 at Glasgow Airport whilst attempting to board a flight to Pakistan with his uncle. This fact, the fact he was on his way to Pakistan, was introduced as evidence, in conjunction with the material found on his computer, and in conjunction with the fact he'd expressed sympathy with those engaged in armed resistance to US and British foreign policy in the Middle East, to accuse him of intent to engage in terrorist activity.
As I sat there, watching such injustice masquerading as justice, I was reminded of the hysteria, fanned by the media and manipulated by the British government of the day, which resulted in the wrongful convictions of the Birmingham Six and the Guildford Four back in the mid 1970s at the height of the IRA's war against the British State. A total of ten Irish men and women were arrested, evidence was concocted against them by the police and security services, signed confessions were extracted using torture, and they were tried and sentenced to imprisonment for terms of between 12 and 30 years. Ultimately, they were arrested and imprisoned simply for the crime of being Irish in Britain at a particular period in history.
Some eighteen years later their convictions were found to be 'unsafe' and those who were still in prison at that time were released. The story of one, Gerry Conlon, was immortalised in the Hollywood movie 'In The Name Of The Father.'
The point is that then, just as now, the British State’s occupation of another country, its colonisation of another people, was inevitably being met by armed resistance. The ‘dirty war’ that resulted rebounded on British society in the form of so-called terrorist attacks, mainly in the form of indiscriminate bombings in cities like London in which civilians were killed. But rather than admit the cause of such attacks – namely the colonial occupation of another country and another people – the then British government labelled those responsible as terrorists and criminals and dealt with the matter accordingly. It was a measure which led directly to an attack on civil rights and the willingness of the police to lie in court and use torture in order to send innocent men and women to prison.
In short, when a government engages in imperialist wars and occupations abroad, the end result is the corruption of the political and legal establishment at home. What I witnessed today with regard to the imprisonment of a young Muslim male was the net result of this corruption.
The attacks which took place in London on July 7th 2005, carried out by young Muslim males, were followed by a failed attempt by other Muslim males to carry out further attacks on July 20th in the same year. Earlier this summer there were two failed attacks in London and Glasgow, again carried out by Muslim males. These attacks, all of them, though rightly condemned by every serious person of every political stripe, were directly linked to Britain's role in the ongoing occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, along with the British government’s continued support for Israel its occupation of Palestinian land.
Yet the British government, under Tony Blair and now Gordon Brown, refuses to budge from the nonsensical and ludicrous position that these attacks are not connected with the Middle East, that instead they are the work of evil people who "hate our values and are determined to attack our freedoms."
Of course, that the government does so is not due to any lack of understanding or awareness of the issues involved. Of course it isn't. The position which they have taken and maintain is one arrived at in a concerted attempt to deflect their responsibility for and, yes, complicity in the various terror attacks that have taken place on British soil in the last few years. Simply put, the British government has sacrificed the law and any notion of justice as the aim of the law in order to pursue a foreign policy in support of a US reach for global hegemony.
The Judge who presided over today's proceedings, a Lord no less, did so safe in the knowledge that he was dispensing the law of the land. The jury which heard the evidence and came to a verdict based on the evidence, did so in an atmosphere of anti-Muslim hysteria that had been whipped up by the media in the wake of the attacks already described, the resulting fear being manipulated by the government in order to undermine civil liberties and introduce anti-terror laws which move society ever closer to totalitarianism.
This will come as small comfort to Mohammed Atif Siddique, who today begins the first day of an 8 year prison sentence. In the aftermath of his original trial his lawyer, Amar Anwar, issued the following statement:
"Today Mohammed Atif Siddique was found guilty of doing what millions of young people do every day, looking for answers on the internet.
"This verdict is a tragedy for justice and for freedom of speech. It undermines the values that separate us from the terrorist, the very values we should be fighting to protect.
"Mohammed Atif Siddique states that he is not a terrorist and is innocent of the charges and it is not a crime to be a young Muslim angry at global injustice.
"The prosecution was driven by the state and carried out in an atmosphere of hostility after the Glasgow Airport attack, and ending on the anniversary of 9/11. In the end, Atif Siddique did not receive a fair trial and I will be considering an appeal."
For daring to issue this statement, Amar Anwar was today informed by the same Judge who sentenced Siddique that he could be facing a charge of contempt.
This is what passes for justice in Britain in the year 2007.
Note from SACC Aamer Anwar has said in court that the statement reproduced above represents the views of Mohammed Atif Siddique and was was issued on Mr Siddique's explicit instructions, and has apologised for not making this clear.