This is an article originally published by the Camden New Journal as reported by Tom Foot (who attended the below mentioned meeting). Hands off Somalia were also an official supporter of this meeting. If you would like to follow this campaign and get updates please check our Facebook page
THE state-sponsored blackmail and harassment of a former Haverstock schoolboy and other Somalis living in Camden by MI5 is a “national disgrace”, according to one of the country’s leading miscarriage-of-justice campaigners.
Solicitor Gareth Peirce – who has represented the Guildford Four, Birmingham Six, the family of Jean Charles de Menezes and Guantanamo Bay detainee Moazzam Begg – spoke in support of Mahdi Hashi at a packed public meeting inside the Town Hall on Friday night.
The 23-year-old was stripped of his British citizenship after refusing to spy on young Muslims in Camden, according to his family.
Mr Hashi, who lived in Gilbey’s Yard, Chalk Farm, was later arrested in east Africa and taken to New York where he has been charged with being part of an international terrorist network.
He has told his legal team how he was threatened with outlawed torture by US officials shortly after his capture in Djibouti last September.
Ms Peirce, whose law firm is based in Camden Town, said: “Blackmail is unlawful. Threats, harassment and rendition are unlawful. These are crimes.
“If hundreds of Somalis under suspicion for travelling to east Africa get in touch with us and say they have been blackmailed and harassed, how many thousands of police and security officers are being deployed for this purpose?
“It’s a disgrace, a national disgrace, a badge of shame.”
She added: “I simply would say to those of us who live and work in Camden: this is our community. This is the place we should be raising it. We should have council meetings here in Camden about this. The Camden MP should be here. Somalis have a right in Camden to raise this issue and make it heard.”
Mr Hashi, who moved to Camden from Somalia aged 6, went back to his homeland in 2009 after reporting intense harassment from MI5. His family say he had refused to spy on other “practising Muslims” living in Camden after they accused him of being an extremist. He was told he would suffer consequences if he did not co-operate and his lawyers said his appearance in a New York court in December showed “that threat has been executed”.
Friday’s meeting – organised by the Campaign Against Criminalising Communities, and backed by Camden Council – heard evidence from the Kentish Town Community Organisation that many of its members had been approached and blackmailed in the same way.
The destructive practice was ongoing, the meeting heard, but following the decision by Theresa May to strip Mr Hashi of his citizenship, many Camden Somalis were afraid to speak out or travel abroad.
KTCO community worker Mohamed Nur told the meeting he received a knock at the door from a man pretending to be a postman and another man who flashed a “highway badge” in his face.
Mr Nur said: “They were both keen to recruit me as an informant. When I refused they said they would be in touch. Now I get stopped when I try and travel. After my last trip, I came back by myself and, lo and behold, I get stopped and told I have to give over DNA.”
He said he was taken to Heathrow police station and held in a cell for nine hours under “Schedule 9” checks, part of the terrorism legislation currently being reviewed by the government.
Mr Nur said: “We work with a lot of youths, some are Muslims. One guy who called me for roughly three hours was crying his eyes out saying, ‘I don’t know what to do’.
“This is what is happening now. Young people are asking, ‘If I show any form of political activism, I might have my citizenship revoked. I could come back from my home and told I am not a British citizen’.
“Some people might be thinking this is a Muslim problem, but I doubt this will end with Muslims. These powers are being used on the wider community.”
Saghir Hussain, director of the Cageprisoners campaign group, said a report from the government officials tasked with approaching young Muslims like Mr Hashi had been classed as “secret evidence” in an upcoming appeal to be heard in the High Court.
He said: “We do not know what we are aiming at. We do not what is being said about Mahdi – we do not know what to counter.”
He said the Secret Justice Bill, which is expected to become law later this year, was a “cover for incompetence, corruption and outright dishonesty”.
Mr Hussain added: “I am surprised how ethnic minorities are being used as bogey figures for state agencies to get more powers – those powers will be widely used.”
David Anderson QC, a barrister tasked with reviewing current terror laws for the government, praised Camden Somalis and campaign organisations who came forward with evidence of malpractice.
He said: “If something happens you feel bad about, you must complain. Go to the IPCC, say what is wrong. If they do that we will have the evidence to bring change where change is needed.”
Councillor Awale Olad said: “It is outrageous that Mahdi has been persecuted; his only crime was to be outside the UK.”
The Council Chamber was packed with public and friends and family of Mr Hashi who gave testimonies about his good character.
He had received certificate awards from the Camden Mayor in the Town Hall.
In a surprising twist, the campaign for Daniel Roque Hall – a severely disabled man who supporters say will die if he is discharged from UCH to prison – revealed how Mr Hashi used to care for him while working at the KTCO.
Mr Hashi’s father, Mohammed, told the meeting: “I cannot believe the British government did this to my son. We are worried that Somalis are the new terror suspects and this could happen to anyone.
“When we spoke to him, he mentioned his mother and asked to say he was thinking of her. That is the kind of person he is.”
Mr Hashi’s mother, Khatum, told the meeting: “We will never give up our rights and our faith. If we die for life, we do not care.
“To the young ones here – I would say to them, never give up what we believe. We have to be strong and be open. Those who are hunting us are trying to lose our happiness and hope, watch them before they destroy our community.”