Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Support Our Annual Fund Drive! CounterPunch is entirely supported by our readers. Your donations pay for our small staff, tiny office, writers, designers, techies, bandwidth and servers. We don’t owe anything to advertisers, foundations, one-percenters or political parties. You are our only safety net. Please make a tax-deductible donation today.
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Case of Detainee U

by YVONNE RIDLEY

London

The tabloid media here are going to have a feeding frenzy over the next few days after international soccer star Ryan Giggs was dramatically revealed as the figure behind the so-called super privacy injunction.

Now that the secret’s out they’ll be picking over every aspect of his private life hunting for more revelations about the Manchester United player’s alleged extra marital affair to a reality TV star.

Even the Prime Minister David Cameron, facing an increasingly aggressive media campaign to stop the High Court granting injunctions protecting the privacy of celebrities, announced a joint parliamentary committee to examine privacy issues, injunctions and the regulation of the Internet.

The world watched with great amusement and there was even a threat of some legal action Stateside as Giggs’ legal team looked as though they were going to take action against some Twitter users who had named and shamed their client days earlier.

But, his name is no longer a secret.

Good. I hate secrets. As Samuel Johnson wryly observed back in the 18th century: “Where secrecy or mystery begins, vice or roguery is not far off.” How right he was.

Now I hope some of my old Fleet Street colleagues from both the broadsheets and the tabloids will sharpen their pencils and turn their attention to other secrecy issues in the legal system.

While just about everyone has now heard of Ryan Giggs I wonder how many of you have heard of Amar Makhlulif?

He’s not rich or famous, nor has he appeared on a reality TV show or slept with a Page 3 model! He arrived in Britain in 1993 without fanfare and applied for political asylum.  For the next few years he lived and worked in the sort of quiet anonymity now so craved by Mr Giggs and his family.

But it’s no use asking why this Algerian medical doctor has been banged up for 10 years ? even if he was allowed to talk to the media, which of course he’s not, he couldn’t tell you. He is not allowed to see the secret evidence against him. Not even his own lawyers are allowed to examine the dossier because it’s so secret.

Furthermore we are not allowed to ask or even know anything about Amar Makhlulif whose very identity was shielded behind the legal nom de guerre of Detainee U.

I’d like to see News International lawyers from The Sun, The News of the World, The Sunday Times and The Times sharpen their Murdoch claws on this case and rip wide open the sinister motives and dark forces that keep Amar Makhlulif in Long Lartin prison in Worcestershire.

It would be nice of The Telegraph and Express newspapers set aside their Islamaphobic tendencies to investigate this case as well.

Makhlulif was arrested at London Heathrow Airport boarding a flight to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, in February 2001 at the request of American intelligence agencies and spent the next few years fighting extradition proceedings to the US.

Without producing a shred of evidence, the Americans alleged that he was a senior figure in the Algerian GSPC, and that he organized travel to Afghan camps for his Algerian recruits. They also threw in a couple of terror plots for good measure.    Ben Emmerson, QC, counsel for Makhlulif, told a court in 2002 that a trial in the US would be a “flagrant denial of justice”.  He said witnesses for Makhlulif would be unprepared to give evidence in the US and the unprecedented level of publicity in the US would also pose “an irrevocable threat of unfairness” in the case.

Two years later the extradition case collapsed after a key witness who had been tortured for all manner of information, refused to co-operate further with American prosecutors and subsequently US intelligence lost interest and said they no longer wanted Makhlulif.

But just as he was about to walk free he was re-arrested at the entrance gates to Belmarsh prison in south east London and detained under Immigration Laws, pending deportation to Algeria.

That was nearly eight years ago and he wrote of the experience:  “I remain in prison to this day, as a political prisoner, held without charge .. These years will never come back. I have been treated in prison in ways that even Algerian authorities would be ashamed to consider. In Algeria, they kill you physically [along] with verbal insults. In Britain, they kill you psychologically, with a smile.

“I am only seeking the same rights as [afforded to] the rapists, paedophiles and offenders in British prisons: and that is the right to a fair, open trial. If I have done something wrong, I should be put on trial and punished. If not, then I should be released and allowed to get on with my life. Is this too much to ask?”

His case has intrigued me for years ? what is so secret in the legal file that not even his defense team are allowed to inspect it and therefore unable to challenge it. For years he was only referred to as Detainee U and could not be named.

In 2008, for a short spell, he was finally allowed out on a form of house arrest, which was even more limiting than the one the Burma junta imposed on Aung San Suu Kyi until the recent elections there.  Makhlulif could not even put a toe over the door of his new home in Brighton in 2008 which was inspected regularly, and without warning, by swarms of police causing huge distress to his landlord, a retired academic who was equally bewildered by this draconian treatment.

To try and bring some cheer, I occasionally sent pizzas by delivery to Makhlulif but even that little act of kindness was stopped, such was the vindictive pursuit against him ? and it was vindictive and hateful and it was and still is being driven by one person within the Home Office.

The same person blocked him from taking an Open University course even though his supporters had raised the money for him to enroll. His return to Long Lartin’s secure unit was brought about after another ruling based on secret evidence by The Special Immigration Appeals Commission (Siac), in effect Britain’s national security court.

The driving force behind Makhlulif’s persecution is not a Government Minister or an elected member of parliament but for the last decade this individual has worked obsessively to keep him and his case shrouded in secrecy. This vicious streak of pure malice shown by someone in authority towards a man who came to these shores for help as an asylum seeker is probably the most unwholesome I’ve encountered in 35 years of journalism.

Perhaps I should out Makhlulif’s tormentor whose behavior is bordering on psychotic according to some observers, but I’m going to keep the identity a secret for the time being. I can’t tell you on what basis ? it’s a secret. Though I have a suspicion there could be an outing very soon on the Twitter network.

In the meantime Ryan Giggs will likely spend the next few days under siege from the media for allegedly playing away from the marital home. Some might say it’s a small price to pay but at least he knows exactly why this is happening. It was a tough and expensive lesson but Giggs now knows the media and the public at large don’t like secrets and they don’t like the rich and influential using their money to hide behind super secrecy injunctions issued by the courts.

Giggs was outed, rather heroically I thought, by Liberal Democrat MP John Hemming who used his Parliamentary Privilege to devastating effect on Monday afternoon. He justified his actions stating the footballer had already been named and shamed by 75,000 people on Twitter.

Hemming later said he stepped in when he thought Giggs legal team were using the courts to oppress and imprison individuals in secret just for retelling gossip on Twitter. He said: “The first steps had been taken to identify people who had started the gossip.”

But then, more tellingly, he revealed: “There are people who are jailed in secret in this country.”

Indeed there are, Mr Hemming ? and now we know the identity of Detainee U let’s campaign for his release and put an end to the ridiculous secrecy laws which have kept him a prisoner of the state.

And let’s get rid of this corrosive secrecy that has been at work to stop you and I finding out the truth about Amar Makhlulif.

No more secrets.

Yvonne Ridley, a British journalist, is a patron for the London-based human rights NGO, Cageprisoners.

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

Weekend Edition
September 30, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Henry Giroux
Thinking Dangerously in the Age of Normalized Ignorance
Stanley L. Cohen
Israel and Academic Freedom: a Closed Book
Paul Craig Roberts – Michael Hudson
Can Russia Learn From Brazil’s Fate? 
Andrew Levine
A Putrid Election: the Horserace as Farce
Mike Whitney
The Biggest Heist in Human History
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: the Sick Blue Line
Rob Urie
The Twilight of the Leisure Class
Vijay Prashad
In a Hall of Mirrors: Fear and Dislike at the Polls
Alexander Cockburn
The Man Who Built Clinton World
John Wight
Who Will Save Us From America?
W. T. Whitney
When Women’s Lives Don’t Matter
Howard Lisnoff
What was Missing From The Nation’s Interview with Bernie Sanders
Jeremy Brecher
Dakota Access Pipeline and the Future of American Labor
Binoy Kampmark
Pictures Left Incomplete: MH17 and the Joint Investigation Team
Andrew Kahn
Nader Gave Us Bush? Hillary Could Give Us Trump
Steve Horn
Obama Weakens Endangered Species Act
Dave Lindorff
US Propaganda Campaign to Demonize Russia in Full Gear over One-Sided Dutch/Aussie Report on Flight 17 Downing
John W. Whitehead
Uncomfortable Truths You Won’t Hear From the Presidential Candidates
Ramzy Baroud
Shimon Peres: Israel’s Nuclear Man
Brandon Jordan
The Battle for Mercosur
Murray Dobbin
A Globalization Wake-Up Call
Jesse Ventura
Corrupted Science: the DEA and Marijuana
Richard W. Behan
Installing a President by Force: Hillary Clinton and Our Moribund Democracy
Andrew Stewart
The Democratic Plot to Privatize Social Security
Daniel Borgstrom
On the Streets of Oakland, Expressing Solidarity with Charlotte
Marjorie Cohn
President Obama: ‘Patron’ of the Israeli Occupation
Norman Pollack
The “Self-Hating” Jew: A Critique
David Rosen
The Living Body & the Ecological Crisis
Joseph Natoli
Thoughtcrimes and Stupidspeak: Our Assault Against Words
Ron Jacobs
A Cycle of Death Underscored by Greed and a Lust for Power
Kim Nicolini
Long Drive Home
Louisa Willcox
Tribes Make History with Signing of Grizzly Bear Treaty
Art Martin
The Matrix Around the Next Bend: Facebook, Augmented Reality and the Podification of the Populace
Andre Vltchek
Failures of the Western Left
Ishmael Reed
Millennialism or Extinctionism?
Frances Madeson
Why It’s Time to Create a Cabinet-Level Dept. of Native Affairs
Laura Finley
Presidential Debate Recommendations
José Negroni
Mass Firings on Broadway Lead Singers to Push Back
Leticia Cortez
Entering the Historical Dissonance Surrounding Desafinados
Robert J. Burrowes
Gandhi: ‘My Life is My Message’
Charles R. Larson
Queen Lear? Deborah Levy’s “Hot Milk”
David Yearsley
Bring on the Nibelungen: If Wagner Scored the Debates
September 29, 2016
Robert Fisk
The Butcher of Qana: Shimon Peres Was No Peacemaker
James Rose
Politics in the Echo Chamber: How Trump Becomes President
Russell Mokhiber
The Corporate Vice Grip on the Presidential Debates
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail
[i]
[i]
[i]
[i]