"I keep flying the flag of hope but can't go on forever without Allah's Support and your support".
(Rachid Ramda, Political Prisoner, HMP Belmarsh)
Who is Rachid Ramda
34 year old Rachid Ramda is an Algerian asylum seeker who came to Britain in 1993.
In November of 1995, he was arrested on an extradition warrant from the French Government, which accused him of financing the 1995 Paris Metro Bombings. Over the past decade, there have been nine separate legal proceedings attempting to extradite Rachid. In 2002, two High Court Judges quashed an extradition order signed by the Home Secretary. They pointed to the fact that the evidence against Rachid came from a co-defendant who had been mistreated in French custody. Furthermore, they maintained that no Muslim could receive a fair trial in France.
Despite this, Rachid has spent almost ten years 'languishing in the corners of the British Gulag' known as HMP Belmarsh. He spent six years in the Special Secure Unit, where his mental and physical wellbeing suffered. He was incarcerated 23 hours a day in a small cell that his solicitor described as a "concrete coffin". Now, he is a lifeline to the other Muslims in Belmarsh and is known as Rachid 'One Brother Wonder' Ramda. After six years in the SSU, Rachid fought for his right to education and completed an Open University Course in English literature and is now in the process of working towards a degree. He has also completed the memorisation of the Quran whilst behind bars. He is described by a fellow detainee as 'the most sweet man - the most peaceful and gentle soul? A man that has remained stoic after being detained for ten years (on remand) in a prison like Belmarsh where, for sure, one year should be counted treble?'
On the 1 December 2005, Rachid was extradited to France.
Rachid sent to France
A French court convicted Rachid Ramda on Wednesday 29 March 2006 of acting as banker for the terrorists reponsible for the 1995 Paris Metro bombings. He was given a 10-year sentence - the maximum possible. His lawyer says said he will appeal against the ruling.The charges related only to the preparation of the attacks, which were blamed on the Algerian Armed Islamic Group (GIA). Rachid Ramda faces a second trial for his alleged role in the actual bombings. Rachid Ramda sentenced
Article by Ann Alexander
Letter from a fellow prisoner in Belmarsh
A Misscarriage of Justice
- The only 'evidence' against Rachid originated from a co-defendant who was brutally mistreated by the French authorities. This man later retracted his statement and has always denied the crime. Therefore, this 'evidence' is highly unreliable and misleading and cannot be used in a fair trial.
- The case to extradite him was quashed in June 2002, but the judge left the Home Office with a number of questions. It has taken three years for the Home Office to write 8 pages which contain no answers to these questions. No new 'evidence' has been submitted.
- The ruling from the Home Office regarding their decision to extradite him wasn't faxed to Belmarsh prison, and as yet, Rachid has not received any formal notification of this decision. Had his solicitor not been able to inform him, he would have missed the deadline for appeal.
- In Britain's Belmarsh Prison, Rachid was subject to the petty, morale breaking tactics of the prison authorities. Often his letters to his friends and family did not reach them and phone calls to his extended family were denied him.
- Rachid's physical and mental health has suffered terribly as a result of his decade long detention in Belmarsh prison, especially the first six years spent in the SSU confined to a small space where he was immobile. In his own words, "I have constant pain in my joints, especially my knees, ankles, shoulders and even my elbows. My sight has been decreased because of the overuse of artificial light. Loss of memory sometimes and lack of concentration most of the time."
- He has had no visits from his family during these last ten years. His mother's repeated attempts to receive a visa to the UK have been denied on 12 occasions.
- The treatment of Muslim suspects in France is notoriously bad. In a recent report, Amnesty International noted a pattern emerging of an increase in police violence, deaths in custody and torture. The victims are predominantly Muslims of North African origin. Furthermore, these incidences for the most part have been overlooked and the French Government has not to date introduced any mechanism to ensure such abuses are checked and promptly investigated. Amnesty International is concerned about France's failure to abide by its obligations under the UN convention against torture, particularly in the area of its law enforcement agencies.
- France boasts some of the most draconian anti terrorist policies in Europe, whereby suspects can be remanded in custody for extreme lengths of time before a trial or while an investigation is pending. Again, the worst abuses are directed against Muslims.
- Rachid may be threatened with deportation to Algeria. If this happened, it would be likely that he would be brutally tortured or killed.
- Rachid maintains his innocence and non-involvement in the crimes that he is accused of. Former Algerian Secret Service agents admitted that the bombings of 1995 were orchestrated by the Algerian junta in an attempt to galvanise French public opinion against Algerian Islamists. Thus, Rachid is but a pawn in a political game, and he has lost ten years of his life in detention because of this.
- Rachid is a political prisoner.
Do not let him continue to suffer this cruel injustice.
- Write to Rachid to remind him that he has not been forgotten at this critical time when his spirits are unsurprisingly low. Please bear in mind that it will be difficult for Rachid to reply to any mail he receives.
Monsieur Rachid RAMDA
Alle des Thuyas
94261 Fresnes Cedex
- Check www.cageprisoners.com for news of demonstrations and more action alerts regarding Rachid.
Supported by: Cage Prisoners, Stop Police Terror (SPT), Campaign Against Criminalising Communities (CAMPACC), Scotland Against Criminalising Communities (SACC)