The Sarwar Controversy
MAB, SACC, the Scottish Human Rights Centre and Glasgow Southside Amnesty International organised a meeting in Glasgowï¿½s Al-Furqan Mosque on Friday 25th February 2005. Speakers included Ashfaq Ahmad (father of Babar Ahmad, faced with extradition to the USA), Dr Adnan Siddiqui (Director of the Stop Political Terror campaign), Rosemarie McIlwhan (Director, Scottish Human Rights Centre), Anas Altikriti (Muslim Association of Britain) and Jamal Al-Harith (Guantanamo detainee) and Mohammad Sarwar MP (Labour)
Report from MAB
Friday nigh's meeting in Glasgow's Al-Furqan Mosque proved to be an electric one.
At the last moment Mohammad Sarwar MP accepted an invitation to speak, explaining his decision to vote FOR house arrest. The meeting aimed to put into context the human rights abuses taking place around the world from Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, and Bagram, while the action in Parliament regarding house arrest in the UK meant the meeting took on added significance. To Sarwarï¿½s credit he was the only one out of Glasgowï¿½s MPs who accepted the invitation to speak.
The event is covered on the main front page story of today's Herald (Monday 28 February). Sarwar Conroversy. (abstract only - The Herald will charge you for access to the full article
The article mainly talks about the reaction to Sarwar and whether he was heckled, but more important was the substance of the disagreement between him and the community he is said to represent ï¿½ the community which will undoubtedly feel the brunt of the governmentï¿½s new powers.
Parliament is debating whether the state should be able to lock people up in their homes, without the need to produce evidence against them in a trial. There is a phoney debate taking place as to whether it is important a judge gives the go ahead for this or a politician does. Unfortunately, the three main parties in Westminster have fallen into this trap. And so has Mohammad Sarwar.
For the last three years, foreign nationals have been locked up without a trail in Belmarsh, in what is seen now as a test run for the new powers which are being proposed. The difference now is that they are proposing locking up everyone and not just foreigners. In the case of Belmarsh, some of the prisoners were led to mental illness due to their treatment. They were all released last week, as posing no threat to national security.
The problem with Belmarsh was not that judges were not involved. From the beginning they presided over the regime which suppressed all the evidence, which even the defence lawyers, who were even appointed by the state, were denied access to. So for all those supporting house arrest now to see the involvement of the judiciary as the solution to the controversy will be disappointed in the years to come.
Meanwhile it is the Muslim community who will suffer. Around 700 Muslims have been arrested since the enactment of the original Terror Acts, in an atmosphere of virulent Islamophobic hysteria in the media. After 14 days almost all have had to have been released without charge ï¿½ innocent but their lives shattered. Now, the state is proposing to lock them up indefinitely.