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Out of the Frying Pan
Leaving Tel Aviv on Sunday 16th September (the first day of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, I had trouble at the airport. I wasn’t even wearing the FREE PALESTINE T-shirt that had caused so much trouble in Jerusalem! After commenting on the fascist behaviour and repeated interrogation of the airport officials going through the contents of my luggage, I was thrown to the ground and taken to the local police station where I was held for 5 and a half hours and treated very rudely by the police on duty, missing my afternoon flight. Given my things back I found that apart from 20 shekels, all the money in my wallet was missing. They wouldn’t allow me to write a written complaint and hurried to take me to the airport for a late flight to Istanbul, where they watched me off. I later found other things missing from my bags and wallet. (P.S. I found a plastic police bag containing the missing money at the bottom of my rummaged clothing so I apologize for accusing them of theft. The only missing objects are my rune stones and crystal ball…)
At Istanbul airport I was refused entry into the country. The visa showed that I had been outside Turkey for only a month, and the rule was 90 days before being allowed to return. I was taken to the police department and given a place to sleep in a communal holding room with a number of other oriental detainees with the same visa problems and given the choice of being returned on the next flight to Tel Aviv, or because of my British passport, to an airport in England. I had to choose immediately. Trying to weigh up the options quickly, I decided on Israel, thinking I might try to get a job teaching English in one of the Palestinian territories, but after a couple of hours thought lying on my bedcouch in the constantly brightly lit sleeping room I changed my mind. Having been held in police custody for 2 and a half hours on my arrival in the country after asking not to be given an Israeli visa, and five and a half hours in custody before I left, how long would they keep me if I returned? Also one of the officers had threatened to break my hand when I protested about my prolonged detention there and hinted that I could be sent to a much worse room to wait. I pressed the speaking buzzer and told the Turkish police on duty that I wanted to go to London instead. At first they said it was impossible to change, but relented after I related the treatment I had received from the Israeli police, and they booked me on a flight to London Heathrow the next morning. I was told that my passport would be kept and handed to me on my arrival there.
My mounting paranoia increased after watching Martin Sorcese’s ‘Shutter Island’ as my chosen inflight movie, during which Leonardo Di Caprio’s police officer investigating an incident in a top security mental institution slowly discovers that in fact that he is himself a dangerous patient suffering from delusions and hallucinations.
On arrival at Heathrow an air steward handed my passport in a large envelope to an lady airport official waiting at the door of the plane who accompanied me to passport control. There, a small group of British police officers were waiting near the desk and I was arrested after my passport had been shown. Asked if I knew why I was being arrested, I guessed correctly that it was probably because I hadn’t shown up for trial in London on January 20th on a charge of ‘threatening and abusive behaviour or language’ (Section 5). (My crime had been for shouting “No More War!” 3 times during the Two Minute Silence at the Remembrance Service at the Cenotaph in Whitehall in November last year. Being in Istanbul and low on funds I hadn’t been able to afford a plane ticket to return in time for the January trial in London, and knew that I was now wanted as an ‘absconder’.
After being allowed to collect my bag and change some money I was taken to a Heathrow police station where I was searched and questioned and then handcuffed and taken by police prison van to Westminster Magistrates Court where I was given an unappetizing hot packaged cottage pie (English food!) and a plastic cup of too sweet hot chocolate, and held in a small individual cell in the basement, listening to young fellow frustrated detainees, like me facing their own trials and possible remand in prison, hooting and hollering and laughing maniacally in their own little cell chambers down the echoing corridor. Very ‘Shutter Island’! I did my yoga exercises, quietly recited The Sermon on the Mount, and tried to stay calm.
Later I was let out briefly to talk to a young black solicitor who knew practically nothing about the details of my case (we were interrupted by officers saying that Court 6 were ‘screaming for her). She hurried off and I was sent back to the cell. After another long wait I was handcuffed again and taken up to the courtroom where I was unhandcuffed and made to sit behind a plastic screen looking in to the room.
After hearing the facts, the two magistrates (male and female) came to their decision. My passport was to be held by the court, I was to report to Charing Cross Poice station on Wednesday between 4 – 6pm, and I was to turn up for my trial at Westminster Magistrates Court on 21st September at 9.30am. Until then I was at liberty. Back down in the basement I was allowed to retrieve my belongings from the sealed plastic bags into which they had been placed and walked outside a ‘free’ man. In fact I walked all the way across town from the courthouse to the West End, enjoying the movement and fresh air after having been cooped up for so long in police custody in Israel, Turkey and England.
I found a backpackers’ hostel in Soho and got a bed in a shared dorm, and there I hope to stay until my trial at the Magistrate’s Court on the 21st. After that I don’t know where I’ll be staying, but I hope it’s not in jail! Although come to think of it, more and more I’m learning that the whole world seems to be just one big capitalist prison. Let there be Freedom and Justice for all! Let there be an end of Money! Until then there will be no real peace.
Michael Dickinson can be contacted at email@example.com