Only allowed out of his home for four hours in his day, Detainee Z is subjected to harsh bail order conditions as he fights deportation to Algeria. Having been placed through a process of detention without charge through a plethora of counter-terrorism legislation, the government after seven years has still not been able to make a single allegation stick against him. He now speaks to Cageprisoners about how his status as a refugee to the UK has resulted in his unlawful detention.
CAGEPRISONERS: Could you please introduce yourself?
DETAINEE Z: I am Detainee Z and Iâ€™m from Algeria. I was detained until recently in HMP Long Lartin.
CP: Why were you initially picked up?
Z: They said I was a threat to national security. They detained me under the Immigration Act 1971, since then they have told me, â€™you are a threat to national securityâ€™, but they never explained to me why.
CP: So what were you doing prior to your arrest?
Z: I was working from early morning to late evening to get a bit for my family. I was working in property, for repairs, for plumbing and DIY, and this kind of work.
CP: What sort of allegations have they made against you to indicate you were a threat?
Z: They didnâ€™t put any allegation. The only allegation is they said youâ€™re a threat to national security and they put it broadly, they never explained what it is, or showed me any evidence. They keep it secret.
CP: No evidence at all?
Z: No evidence at all. They didnâ€™t show me any evidence, they just said you are a threat to national security, so okay, show me what I have done wrong, but he never show me anything. He said we cannot show you this for national security; everything being guarded in secret – not even my legal representative knows what it is.
CP: So, essentially you are saying that there was absolutely no reason why, in your mind that they picked you up in the first place, so why do you believe that they felt that you were not conducive to the public good or a threat to national security?
Z: Well, I think itâ€™s a public show, maybe itâ€™s political, because it happened after the event of 7/7, which we have nothing to do with it, nothing at all. So, they have to show to their public they are doing something, because the political agenda of the previous MP, everyone knows who he is and his view and policy towards the Muslims and so on. I don’t think there is any reason, I mean, I know myself I done nothing wrong. I am pretty convinced because of my religion and as a foreigner, so I am an easy target. So, they say we will pick up a few people and to show we are tough on terrorism.
CP: You are Algerian, so why did you leave Algeria in the first place?
Z: Well when I came first, it was nearly seventeen years ago, I came here as a tourist and at the same time I wanted to finish my Mastersâ€™ degree, just to see if I could go to University to do a Masters degree in Civil Engineering. But when I came here, the situation changed very rapidly and quickly in Algeria. In the summer in 1991, and on the advice of all my family, they said you better stay for a while as it was getting bad at that time in Algeria, so I was simply advised not to go back, but stay there and try to do something, then when the situation is stable try to go back. But I never had that chance, the problems still there, the problem with my country, so I couldn’t go back to Algeria, but I wish I could go back. I want to stay there. Iâ€™ve got my family, my parents. I miss my country a lot, but itâ€™s not safe.
CP: Well, I mean this is the whole point, because they are threatening to deport you to Algeria, but what are your fears exactly if you are sent back there?
Z: Well, if you threw someone in a jungle and you know itâ€™s full of lions and I don’t think someone who is intelligent will put himself in a cage with a lion. And if you don’t trust the lion, even when they try to use this kind of memorandum and assurances; how can you trust someone who yesterday use torture and today you say he’s okay?
CP: So, explain a bit more about these memorandums of understanding or assurances?
Z: Well, they try to say ‘okay, we don’t say that it is not a country which has been recognised by all the N.G.O.’s, that they use torture and mistreatment of detainees in prison’ and so on. But, we try to get some sort of assurances from them, that these people will be well treated and respected with human rights and we will use mechanisms like with other third party N.G.O’s to monitor them. But, it’s allâ€¦ I don’t think it is acceptable. I mean how can you monitor if someone is being tortured? How can you force this memorandum? Even if you are from my country, my country, they refuse to sign up for that. I mean, like, other countries they sign up and they pressure you, I don’t think they are willing to sign up with other countries like Jordan and Libya, but they are being put under pressure. You know how this country uses pressure on other weak countries, like Jordan is a very weak country, Libya is a very weak country, so they put pressure or they offer them stuff, I don’t know, like money or whatever. But my country – I mean, from what I know – don’t want to sign this memorandum, because of Algerian sovereignty and we don’t want like people to check on us. I don’t know what the reason is; maybe they have their own reasons.
CP: So, in order to appeal against this deportation order, you actually had to go through a process called ‘SIAC’. Could you just explain what ‘SIAC’ is?
Z: ‘SIAC’ actually itself is a ‘kangaroo court’, it’s a show, so when they try and abuse the power and try to give you an injustice they put you on ‘SIAC’. ‘SIAC’ has nothing to do with the law or justice or whatever, because it’s based only on one person. I don’t how he’s been selected, the judge, he makes the decision, it’s vetted, and most of the arguments are in secret, even your solicitor can’t tell you what it is and whatever has been said is done in secret itâ€™s kangaroo. You see the judge, I think the previous judge is very well known that he’s got fascist views, because we know some of his neighbours and he said, ‘we know this guy and he’s a fascist’, and we know he’s a fascist basically this judge, because what happened, when they tried to secure the memorandum in Algeria, because when they arrest us on the condition that they won’t send us until they get this memorandum. So, they arrest before getting, signing the memorandum with this country, but they didn’t manage to get this memorandum with Algeria. Algeria, they refused to sign it. So, when we went to the court in 2006 to say thereâ€™s no memorandum ‘Why are you holding these people?’ So, they were waiting for the ruling of the judge, even the ‘Home Office’ they know that they cannot deport us for this memorandum and so they issued an order to the prison to tell these people to pack their stuff. They sent even a van to pick us up; I mean I think they were planning to put us on a ‘control order’. So, even the ‘Home Office’ who is the man responsible for our detention, he was convinced that this was it for the case, but the surprise was that the judge said ‘Yes, we can deport them without this memorandum, just on their word, because he made the ruling without having any sort of background about my country, not at all, he wrote some piece of few paper about the reconciliation in Algeria and he said ‘o.k. we don’t need this memorandum, that’s it, we deport them under this reconciliation. He makes his own mind, like he became the Home Office.
CP: So what were the problems in terms of the process of ‘SIAC’?
Z: It’s very long, it takes time and if you asked for example for bail they say ‘No’, because I applied for bail four times before and it’s been denied bail and they know you have family, two kids and they say ‘Yeah, I accept’. My family, they are under an immense amount of stress and even though they say ‘yes I accept that, but I think he is going to abscond, even if he’s got family’. How he based his judgment is ridiculous.
CP: And so you finally received bail, after how many years did you spend in prison?
Z: Well for two and a half years as a hostage, I don’t see it as a prisoner, because someone who is sent to a normal prison, he is someone who has committed murder or crime or a common law crime and he can have the chance to progress through the system, where he’s in prison and at least he knows he maybe commit something, he commit something he is for that, I can’t say he’s guilty or not, it is not for me to judge, but at least he has been convicted by the court. For us it’s different, we don’t have any sort of mechanism. They say ‘Okay, you are in prison for one year, or two years, or life’ – you don’t know when you are going to be released. For us, it’s you are there, you don’t know why you’re there, so it’s worse and we are put in small units, it’s very claustrophobic, that affected all our mental health, we got all mental problems. Like, at the moment, I find it very difficult to read and I’m losing my eyesight, because of the poor lighting and cannot see long distance as well, so my eyes are going very, very bad at the moment. I cannot read small print or a newspaper I cannot read without having bright light and magnifying glass. You are in a very small unit with a small number of people and this has been built as segregation – we were worse than someone who had committed something. So, it was like we were hostage, because when you put someone without any charge, without any reason, it’s kidnapping; this hostage that you take from his family at 5 o’clock in the morning and they put you in jail and you go through an abusive legal system like this ‘SIAC’, it’s very difficult to cope with.
CP: What were the circumstances that led to you finally being released on bail?
Z: I applied for bail months ago and it was refused the same as itâ€™s been refused before, because we put some legal points and arguments to the House of Lords and we were waiting to see will they accept this. When you submit something to the House of Lords it takes a year, and we said if itâ€™s going to be taking a year, and thereâ€™s no time limit for detaining someone. The judge didnâ€™t make this ruling on that on this point of law. But he said I’m going to refuse him bail. If they accept it is going to take a year, then if they accept this legal point. So heâ€™ll be willing to listen to our bail in a monthâ€™s time. So after the House of Lords decided to hear our case, and I believe the judge in his mind thought they are not going to accept that, because I know him, how he think. Finally, the House of Lords accept our legal point to hear and they said yes, we will be responsible because this will take a year to hear because of the backlog in the cases. Then he made the ruling to the Home Office, â€œif we are going to oppose the bail you must bring someone from the Security Service to say why you are opposing the bail, you have to explain yourself why.â€ After a while the Home Office came back and said, â€œwe donâ€™t need to bring anyone because we are not going to oppose their bail.â€
CP: And now you have a case in the House of Lords?
Z: The reason behind it why they are not opposing it, I donâ€™t know. Itâ€™s quite strange. Itâ€™s quite surprising – maybe they donâ€™t want to bring someone from the Security Service. Maybe they will look ridiculous to be challenged because they know they will be challenged on why, what are the reasons. It will expose there mischief and so on. The Home Office, they want to keep everything in SIAC, they donâ€™t want us to go to GIR or challenge them in other courts. In SIAC, no oneâ€™s heard of it, thereâ€™s no publicity. So as long as they keep it in SIAC, itâ€™s fine for them. We stayed inside for nearly three years in our case.
CP: So youâ€™re now on a bail order; firstly, how does it feel seeing your family again after so long?
Z: Well, Alhamdulillah, all thanks to Allah that I’m out. Even with very, very strict bail conditions. Itâ€™s abusive conditions anyway. But alhamdulillah I am very happy to be with my family, children and this is most important to be here for my family. Because basically what I want is to be able to go and see my family because my family were in real need of me.
CP: Has this affected you children?
Z: A lot. I mean now, my older boy canâ€™t leave me for a second. Heâ€™s always sitting next to me, asking questions, so it was like an interview, twenty four hours a day! But you can see the happiness and joy in their face – not only their faces, but their eyes as well.
CP: Has it affected them psychologically?
Z: Yeah, a lot with the conditions not over yet, because there are some restrictions, that no one can visit, but alhamdulillah, anyway, time will take care of it. Women doing the shopping with two kids, is not easy, when someone is under stress and so on, itâ€™s very difficult. I can see how it is a difficult relationship and taking care of the house, dealing with problems, itâ€™s very hard.
CP: What does it feel like to be under bail conditions?
Z: At the moment, because Iâ€™ve only been out for a few days, as I said I wanted to be with my family, even with very, very strict bail conditions. Some of them say that you need these strict conditions, maybe for national security, maybe some of them you can understand them, but I donâ€™t have to accept them. I don’t have to accept them at all, but you can understand them. If you go to the court, you can argue against these conditions maybe. Some of the conditions are nothing to do with security; I mean to restrict your movements, whatever, their main purpose to punish you and to punish your family, first of all. Because one of the conditions is that Iâ€™m allowed out for two hours, within certain hours, then I have to come back and take another two hours within the boundaries, which basically is about one mile, with a tag, and every time I have to leave, I have to call this tagging company to let them know that I am out, and this tagging effects only me. Two hours is not easy to take your children out, because of the boundaries, you cannot take your children so that they can enjoy their lives, and your family, and you cannot move very far with the boundary, only a one mile radius.
One of the conditions as well, youâ€™re not allowed any access to a mobile phone or internet or anything to do with the computer. Even when they came I had an mp3 player for my kids, to listen to Quran, because itâ€™s a storage device, and one of the bail conditions is that youâ€™re not allowed any type of storage devices. They applied it very broadly and said you cannot have this one, and I said it belongs to my children and they said no, because itâ€™s a storage device. They took the memory from my camera, video camera. the one you take pictures with, it still had pictures of my children. Because I donâ€™t have a computer, what am I going to do with it? So now they are denying computers to my kids and now everyoneâ€™s using computers, accessing the internet, because theyâ€™ve started now to enjoy school and so on, you need to learn, so they are depriving them of what everyone else has access to and children need them for their upbringing and so on.
I cannot have any visitors, without them being vetted by security. So they have to send out their passport pictures. I donâ€™t think anyone is willing to have his ID vetted and being put on the list and I donâ€™t judge them, because if they travel and they give this ID and so on, and if he is going to travel their ID will be put on a database and when they travel they will have problems. Ok, so they say that me, Iâ€™m not allowed any visitors, but what about my wife? So they are denying that to my wife as well. Her mobile, she has to switch it off at home, but she can switch it on when she is outside with me, so it doesnâ€™t make any sense.
And they come and search your property anytime of the day or night, so that means if the children are asleep, they can wake them up. This is torture; this is deprivation for them, the children. They search your property, and you know when they come to search it, they turn it upside down and yourself you have to do it up again. You cannot have prearranged meetings. For example now I choose a mosque, because I know this mosque well, my wife and children go. They said you cannot go to this mosque to pray Friday prayer, because Iâ€™m allowed only one hour to pray on Fridays. They denied me this mosque because they said thereâ€™s something in secret. As I see, this is interfering with the freedom of religion. They are interfering with my religion; this has nothing to do with some security. They are denying me to express my religion. Until now, because it has not been agreed, I cannot go to Friday prayers, and this is wrong. This is one of the main conditions, as I said with a map, some of them I cannot remember, but anything that has to do with the computers, accessing internet at home, even a basic computer which has no access to the internet they said you cannot have anything with devices.
If you want to work you have to tell them in advance where you want to work. Whoâ€™s going to accept you say ok, if you find a job and if you offer me a job I have to be cleared? You want to work for him; no, you cannot work for him. If you want to study, you have to be vetted, you have to tell them what you want to study and of course, they will not accept whatever you ask them. Itâ€™s quite, very strict conditions, especially with the time out and so on, with the curfew and so on, itâ€™s very, very difficult. Not only me, maybe me, I can accept it, I can cope but why the children? Because they are not only punishing me, they are punishing the children and my wife, the whole family with these conditions.
CP: What sort of message would you like to give the public regarding not only your situation but the situation of all the brothers that have been detained?
Z: I think first to the public and to the generally to the non Muslims. Itâ€™s better to find out the truth. Donâ€™t listen or read everything that is said in these newspapers on these new laws and these people who are described as â€œthreat to national security.â€ If they want they have to find out and ask and go to this court. Go to visit for example Cageprisoners to hear what they are saying. But donâ€™t listen to anyone who say to youâ€¦ because there is a saying from Gorin itâ€™s just an analogy, but he said if you want to lead people to go to war, itâ€™s easy; just say you are under threat and you can lead them where you want, just tell them you are insecure, they will follow you. But you can oppose it and denounce it. The newspapers, they try to incite people. The Sun, these tabloids they have nothing to do and they sell you only lies to make money, so look into SIAC then you can find the truth by yourself. Donâ€™t just trust these people from one side. Be fair to you to your country, these people are nothing to do with your country, most of them have lived here for maybe a decade and have never been a threat at all. Itâ€™s all politics, so donâ€™t listen to the politicians, because politicians are the biggest liars. To be an MP, to be elected it is not about democracy, I donâ€™t call it democracy; this is a contest: who is the biggest liar, he will win. So donâ€™t listen to them because you will see when they will be elected they promise you many things and nothing will happen. So itâ€™s just lies to make you vote for them. So they are using this sort of terrorist to make you feel insecure. I know some are very honest but most of them are biggest liars and biggest thieves and they have the law of parliament. You are paying your TV licence and you can read the newspaper, they are taking your money. In fact they said we are threat to national security. There is one word is right, I agree with that, I am a threat but to them, these politicians, because we are the only people that knows these people are lying, we are the people that can say, look these people are lying while they know the truth. Because if you know the thief everyone is threat to him who knows he is stealing. So for us, these politicians are trying to get rid of everyone who knows how they deceive, how they lie to the people. They are abusing you, taking your money. Basically, this is what I want people to know and find out and read. Not from one side listen to the people.