Charles Clarke's double standards on foreign prisoners
British Home Secretary Charles Clarke is currently under fire for having allowed the release of numerous serious criminals of foreign nationality back into society without even keeping trace of them. Some of them have since re-offended. There are calls for Clarke to step down, fuelled also by the desire to turn his difficulties and those of deputy prime minister John Prescott into a defeat for the Labour government at the local elections to be held in a few days time.
What is being missed by the same commentators milking the topic in the media at the moment is that it is the same Charles Clarke who refuses to give reprieve to a number of foreign nationals he is holding in high security prisons in violation of the Human Rights Act without giving them an opportunity to even be presented with the alleged crimes they are said to have committed. Held in limbo without charge or trial, cut off from the world, and without any idea how long they will be in this state of uncertainty, many of these so-called detainees have started to develop serious mental health problems. A number have been put under house arrest following the criticisms by Britain's Law Lords of the unsatisfactory nature of their continued imprisonment, but many remain, forgotten in Britain's own Guantanamo Bay: Belmarsh and Woodhill Prisons.
The contrast is stark: On the one hand there are foreign nationals who happen to be Muslims suspected of links to terrorist organisations. The fact that no charges have been brought against them is a strong indication that the case against them is too weak to secure a conviction; in fact they haven't even been questioned about their alleged crimes. On the other hand there are foreign criminals, convicted of heinous crimes, who are free to live in the UK and re-offend because home office policy is not really driven by a desire to protect the public.
There will be a conference in support of those unjustly detained, "to voice their silence", in Blackburn on Sunday afternoon 7 May, at which I will be speaking in my capacity of former Imam of Woodhill prison. Other speakers include Martin Mubanga and Moazzam Begg, former Guantanamo Bay detainees, Barbar Ahmad's father Ashfaq Ahmad who has been tirelessly campaigning to stop his son from being extradited to the United States, Dr Adan Siddiqui from Cage Prisoners, and Yvonne Ridley, political editor of Islam Channel.
Tickets (£7) for the event at Blackburn's King George's Hall are available from the box office website or by phone on 01254 582 582. Come and give your support.