An interesting few days


On Saturday 21st January, a group of us took part in a (not very widely publicised and not very well attended) march in support of nine Guantanamo detainees. These men were British residents before they were captured, lifted, rendered, banged about and banged up in horrible GB. We enjoyed a pleasant progression through some of the fatter areas of the West End, with lots of nice police to talk to, fine weather, and loads of film or pixels being spent capturing the images of us threatening individuals. Makes me feel almost important being photographed, honest. A thoughtful person on the march handed out a list of these detainees prepared by the Peace and Progress party, and here it is:


Shaker Aamer who has a British wife and four British children and whose application for British citizenship was in process when he was captured in Afghanistan. Shaker has been threatened with rendition to Egypt where torture is commonplace.

Bisher AI-Rawi a refugee from Iraq, who came to the UK twenty years ago after his father was detained and tortured by Saddam Hussein and whose family members have all taken British citizenship.

Jamil at-Banna a refugee from Jordan who has a British wife and five British children, four of them born in the UK. Jamil and Bisher were seized in the Gambia where they had gone to set up a business. Their condition was movingly highlighted in the reality play at the Tricycle Theatre, “Guantanamo – honour bound to defend freedom.” Great title.

Omar Deghayes a refugee from Libya whose family has lived in the UK for 20 years. Omar is one of more than 200 detainees who have been on hunger strike for over 5 months asking for the enforcement of the Geneva Conventions In Guantanamo. Omar was blinded in one eye when Guantanamo guards attacked him with pepper dust.

Ahmed Errachidi who has lived in the UK for 18 years and has two young sons here. Ahmed was captured by bounty hunters in Pakistan and sold to the US military. He has been held in solitary confinement for two years, the longest for any detainee in Guantanamo.

Binyam Mohammed a refugee from Ethiopia who was seized in Pakistan whilst trying to return to the UK and taken to Morocco where he was tortured. Binyam has been in Guantanamo since 2004 and is now facing the prospect of being tried by a military commission where evidence obtained under torture is admissible. Mind, if our

Kingston on the march



government had its way the same would probably be true over here.

Jarnal Kiyemba who grew up in Britain. His family came here from Uganda.

Ahmed Ben Bacha a refugee from Algeria who lived in Bournemouth.

Abdulnour Sameur from Algeria who lived in South Harrow and was granted refugee status in 2000.


Doesn’t this roll call makes you proud to think of our great country, refuge for the oppressed and ill treated?


I found the speakers from detainees’ families particularly moving. I noticed in particular that many of them were not asking for release of their loved ones just because they want them back. They were asking for proper process. If these men have committed crimes, they said, produce the evidence and prosecute them. Don’t make people moulder indefinitely.


And then, a few days later, another triumph for democracy and free speech. Palestinian democracy which for some reason is viewed differently from the ordinary sort as practised in – say – the UK. Not because of a low turn out – 77% is a sight better than we manage in the UK. It appeared from the reports that some of the winners’ support came about because their representatives (not all of them, I suppose, but enough to notice) were doing what politicians are supposed to do; look after the interests of the electorate. But the wrong party won, and a torrent of abuse and rejection has landed on Hamas.


Let’s see, one reason is that they have



weapons and use violence in pursuit of their political aims. Now what other nearby democracy [religious and selective branch] shows no sign of giving up its weapons or stopping their regular use in inhuman and oppressive ways? Violence …. These comments come over as hypocrisy when made by governments that are regular user of violent methods. US …. UK ….. Israel. Of course, Palestine isn’t a real country so its citizens are lectured under different rules.


Also, Hamas have to abandon their party line of not recognising the right of Israel to exist and there, frankly, I do think the critics have a most serious and important

point. Hamas have to recognise the various UN Resolutions on this matter. Hear, hear, UN Resolutions should be respected. All of them. As always, the acid test is not what governments and politicians say. It is what they do. The old adages of Alcoholics Anonymous come to mind. “We judged ourselves by our intentions. Others judged us by our actions.” I’ve always loved that one, and it is an excellent test in most areas of life.


Fred Ashmore