Thursday, June 26, 2014 

Crucifixion is an easy life.

Knuckle deep within the borderline.  This may hurt a little but it's something you'll get used to.

Just this once, can we hear it for the Jordanian justice system?  Theirs is a country where freedom of speech is heavily restricted and torturers are able to operate with impunity, and yet even with such things in their favour they still couldn't manage to convict Abu Qatada on terrorism charges.

For those who've (sadly) followed the entire sorry process, this doesn't exactly come as a surprise.  With the tainted testimony from those tortured expunged, the evidence for everyone's favourite Uncle Albert lookalike (stretching it a bit here) being involved in the 1998 bombings in the country was wafer thin.  In fact, there was such a lack of almost anything incriminating against Qatada it could be said to mirror the trial of the al-Jazeera journalists in Egypt.  Jihadica (not exactly the most neutral source) reports that few if any of the witnesses called knew Qatada personally, and rarely even touched on the charges he was facing.  Going by this it seems equally unlikely he will be found guilty of involvement in the "Millennium plot", despite there being a smidgen more circumstantial evidence linking him to it, at least according to SIAC.

It bears repeating then that if it hadn't been for the courts, both here and in Strasbourg repeatedly blocking the attempts by successive governments to deport Qatada back to Jordan without receiving adequate assurances he wouldn't face "evidence" acquired as a result of mistreatment, an innocent man would now most likely be enjoying the hospitality provided at the Jordanian king's finest prison establishments.  Qatada is without doubt an utterly repellent individual, a supporter and apologist for terrorist groups, as proved by his defence of the al-Nusra Front in Syria, but just as he never faced any charges in this country, managing to stay on the right side of the law, he is not a terrorist himself.

Our determination to get rid of Qatada also leaves Jordan with the problem of what to do with him if he is indeed also found innocent of the remaining charges.  While here he was relatively limited in his ability to propagandise, with leaked interviews from prison about the only way he had of communicating with supporters.  In Jordan journalists have spoken to him at the end of court sessions, while simply being in the dock has given him the opportunity to speak out.  Not that this bothers our politicians, far more concerned with making clear there is no possibility he could return if found innocent.  Might it have been an idea to try and build a case against him back here, rather than just wash our hands of the man we gave asylum in the first place?

Don't be silly.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , ,

Share |

Monday, July 08, 2013 

So. Ta ta then.

Abu Qatada is gone.  Not, despite the attempts at further myth making and spin from the Home Office, because he had finally ran out of legal options, but almost certainly down to him realising that even if he had appealed again and delayed his deportation for another couple of years, he was never going to be able to live free (and die hard? Ed.) in this country.  It's worth remembering that with the exception of a short period when he went "missing" after 9/11, Qatada spent the vast majority of the past decade either in Belmarsh or Long Lartin, or during the periods he was released on bail/control order, under the kind of curfew and restrictions that would rid life of pretty much all enjoyment.

Moreover, Qatada never faced a single charge in this country.  If he had appealed, it's possible he could have been charged with some sort of offence over the material allegedly found in his home when he was last arrested which breached his bail conditions, but that's now rather moot.  It might have taken 8 years for Qatada to be deported, longer if you include the time he spent detained without charge between 2002 and 2004, yet it's surely just as unacceptable that someone should spend that period of time under effective detention with charge.  Babar Ahmad suffered a similar fate, despite it being unclear at best whether he had committed any offence whatsoever under UK law.

Qatada then went of his own accord, giving at least as his public justification that he now felt assured he wouldn't face a trial in his home country where the evidence against him would be tainted by torture.  This in itself is an indictment of successive governments, rather than it is of Qatada, or an outrage that human rights laws prevented us getting rid of him at the first opportunity.  For most of that time period ministers were perfectly happy for someone, however unpleasant, dangerous or even murderous, to be deported back to an authoritarian state where torture has long been endemic and trials by the same token are unfair.  We would protest bitterly were a UK citizen subject to such abuses, or we would if it happened in a nation state we aren't friendly with, considering the prevarication over those accused of bombings in Saudia Arabia.  Just look at the campaigns, both successful and unsuccessful, to stop the deportation of the Natwest Three and Gary McKinnion, and that was to the US.

Grudgingly, successive home secretaries were forced to take the legal route.  However it came about, the end result has been for the judicial system in Jordan to be made at the very least fairer, benefiting the population there greatly as a by-product.  Rather than celebrate this as an example of soft power, of the way that diplomacy can result in reform, the government naturally has presented this triumph as exactly why we should consider scrapping the Human Rights Act and even possibly withdrawing from the European Convention on Human Rights altogether.  They can't explain why this needs to happen now, as there isn't a similar case waiting in the wings, and even if there was, it clearly wouldn't take as many years now that it's apparent that people can't be deported back to countries where the evidence against them was the product of torture.  If you want to get rid of someone in such circumstances, either the evidence has to be dropped, or they can't be sent back.  It isn't difficult.

Indeed, considering some of the wilder estimates and that it took 8 years, the reported bill to the taxpayer of £1.7m seems relatively slight.  Quite why it was deemed necessary that a private jet had to be charted for his journey back to Jordan is unclear, especially when security was so lax that Qatada was not handcuffed at any point.  Considering the way in which asylum seekers who have had their request rejected are dealt with, often travelling on commercial flights, his departure could surely have been arranged in a similar way had it been desired.  That wouldn't however have provided the pictures that politicians clearly wanted, of Qatada not quite being carted off but certainly being sent on his merry way.  Regardless of their supposed anger, it summed up what the Qatada case became: not about the rights and wrongs, but about being "tough". 

Labels: , , , , , , , , , ,

Share |

Wednesday, April 24, 2013 

Abu who? Never heard of him.

At times, it's an utter joy (read: torment) to see how politics works. Normally the idea behind briefing the media that you're thinking of doing something popular with your backbenchers and the right-wing press, regardless of how reprehensible it is, is that when you don't you've left it long enough that they're let down gently. When instead you dash their hopes within a matter of hours, it tends to ever so slightly agitate them.

You also might have thought that someone unlucky enough to be bestowed with the name Reckless might be used to unfunny gags being made about it. Not our Mark though, who reacted to Theresa May suggesting that to break the law as he suggested would be, err, reckless, by raising a point of order and then going on TV to continue to complain.

Plenty of politicians you see have a blind spot when it comes to everyone's favourite heavily bearded fanatical cleric, the mysterious Mr Abu Qatada. Not for these heirs of Thatcher such piffling things as the rule of law, which she and her cabinet often invoked when it came to the miners, although they rather overlooked it when the police took to kicking the shit out of them. No, we should put Mr Qatada straight on a plane, or failing that temporarily withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights so we won't face any repercussions should we do so.

There isn't of course even the slightest possibility of the Tories doing so, not least because the Liberal Democrats would never go along with it.  It's also completely and utterly ridiculous: the only way to temporarily withdraw from the ECHR is by arguing that there is a severe and direct threat to the very life of the nation, which is exactly what the law lords decided there wasn't when they ruled that Labour's detention without charge of foreign terror suspects was unlawful. Can you imagine the government seriously arguing before even the lowest court in the land that one man is that dangerous?

Quite why the Tories swung so far from one point to the other in such a short space of time is unclear, unless there were still negotiations going on with Jordan right up until May's statement after PMQ's. It doesn't help that as much as you'd like to welcome the continuing attempts to ensure Qatada doesn't face a trial where the main evidence against him was almost certainly obtained through torture, the new treaty still doesn't look as though it's water tight. As Labour have pointed out, it doesn't seem on the surface as though it requires Jordan to actually change the code of criminal procedure SIAC ruled had to be altered for them to be satisfied torture evidence wouldn't be used. After all, the previous changes to the laws in the kingdom were meant to have solved the problem originally. They didn't.

To be fair to May, and as pointed out umpteen times previously, the real damage was done when ministers under Labour decided that Qatada was better off out of sight and out of mind than prosecuted and imprisoned for his preaching here.  The evidence against him in Jordan, including that apparently obtained through torture, is flimsy at best.  This doesn't however excuse either May or her department for crowing last year that Qatada was as good as gone, especially when even the slightest glance at their claims suggested they were being extremely optimistic if not outright disingenuous.  It seems a pretty safe bet that Qatada will still be here come the next election, and that augurs well for what's likely to become a fight between the parties over whether we should repeal the Human Rights Act, a debate simply guaranteed to be conducted in a fact-based and civil manner.  Can't wait, can you?

Labels: , , , , , , , , , ,

Share |

Tuesday, November 13, 2012 

Yet another post on Abu Qatada.

Well, who could have predicted thatAbu Qatada winning his latest appeal against deportation to Jordan?  This has never happened before!  Oh, except it hasTwice, in fact.  And when even a keyboard monkey like me with no real legal knowledge whatsoever could pick holes in Theresa May's trumping of how this time Qatada really was as good as on a plane, it suggests both she and her predecessors have been receiving incredibly bad advice for quite some time.

The judgment by the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (PDF) is essentially a rehash of the ECHR's decision earlier in the year, that Qatada doesn't personally face the prospect of mistreatment or torture, but he does face the prospect of a trial where the main evidence against him is confessions from men who almost certainly were tortured.  Regardless of the change to the Jordanian constitution to explicitly prohibit the use of evidence obtained via torture, Mr Justice Mitting and his team reached the conclusion that, based on expert evidence from Jordanians who gave written and in person testimony, the statements that incriminate Qatada may well be used against him, and that the burden of proof is likely to fall on the witnesses to prove they were tortured, rather than for the prosecution to prove that they weren't.  As the torture happened over a decade ago and the Jordanian courts previously rejected the notion that torture took place, the likelihood of them being able to do so, even in front of three civilian court judges, is dubious in the extreme.  Barring a further change to the Jordanian code of criminal procedure or a definitive ruling from one of two courts on the ambiguities in the code, Qatada is staying here.

Unless that is May manages to convince the Court of Appeal that SIAC is being unreasonable in its demands of the Jordanians, something that seems highly unlikely considering SIAC has come to effectively the same conclusion as the ECHR did.  In the meantime, ol' bird nest face is free for 8 hours a day, if your definition of free is being tagged, followed by security officers the moment you step out of your front door and being denied access to pretty much everything that makes life pleasurable.

If all this seems a bit much for someone whose motivations have often seemed opaque, then SIAC also obtained new information on the nature of the evidence against Qatada.  To say some of it is thin is an understatement: all that links Qatada to the "Reform and Challenge" case is that one of the defendants says he suggested the targets and then congratulated him afterwards; in addition, three of the defendants had copies of a book by Qatada.

The evidence against him for the Millennium plot isn't much thicker: Qatada gave one of the defendants money, although not ostensibly towards the plot, gifting him 800 Jordanian dinars with which he bought a computer, while the defendant admitted discussing the "issue of jihad" with Qatada, although not specifically about any plot.  Another defendant claimed Qatada had given a further $5,000 to the same man, while the money he had been promised to marry the first defendant's sister never arrived.  Otherwise, the evidence again amounts to possession of books by Qatada, and the discovery of messages between the two men.  SIAC additionally comments on this that "[T]he record of the evidence produced at the trial does not clearly support the prosecutor’s case", although it's presumed that in the case file there will be statements from investigators that will.

All is likely to depend on whether the Jordanians are prepared to move further, or whether a case comes before either court that irons out the disagreement between the experts consulted by the commission.  SIAC accepted that the Jordanians had moved significantly from their initial position, and also noted their awareness of how this was a potential opportunity for them to show they were capable of trying a man notorious internationally with scrupulous fairness.  If SIAC was making its decision on that basis alone, as indeed had the ECHR, Qatada would be long gone.

In a different world, this entire case might be seen as showing the best of the British state.  Despite the contempt often shown towards the Human Rights Act and the ECHR by politicians from both main parties, successive governments have abided by the decisions made in line with it, refusing to countenance ignoring the rule of law in this specific case, and have gone so far as to push Jordan towards making genuine judicial reforms.  Pushing any authoritarian state in the direction of respecting basic human rights is something to be proud of, regardless of the circumstances.

Unfortunately, we're stuck with this world, and it's one where judges are traduced by tabloid newspapers for doing their job.  By all means criticise the judiciary if they get basic decisions wrong, or apply the wrong tests when they sentence someone, but not when they've delivered a judgment as in-depth and cogently argued as Mitting has.  


The real responsibility for this 7-year-long slog lies with the last government.  The decision to simply get rid of Qatada rather than attempt to prosecute him has never been explained adequately: we don't know whether there simply isn't enough evidence against him, whether the evidence is mainly phone intercepts, whether his involvement with MI5 goes too deep, whether it was made impossible by the rendering of Bisher al-Rawi who reported on Qatada to MI5, or whether deportation was felt to be the easiest option.  Where this government has failed has been to fall into the same trap as the previous one, of boasting to the media that the deportation is all but done and dusted, only to find it still hasn't got its legal arguments in order.

One suspects that Qatada will eventually get sent to Jordan, if only down to how successive governments have backed themselves into a corner.  Should further changes to the Jordanian law not be forthcoming, then Qatada's bail restrictions will have to be either loosened or dropped entirely.  The only other option is to impose a TPIM, and they can only last for two years.  Even at this late stage there's still time for a potential prosecution to be looked at, however embarrassing that might be either for the previous government or the security services.  It can't be any worse than the prospect of someone built up to be Osama bin Laden's right-hand man in Europe mooching free around London.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Share |

Thursday, April 19, 2012 

From bean to cup, they fuck up.

Omnishambles. The more time that goes by, the more I'm convinced that The Thick of It is the best comedy of 00s; yes, Peep Show is superb and the first series at least of Nighty Night is great, but neither compare with the sheer majesty of Peter Capaldi as Malcolm Tucker and the virtuosity of the writing. The great irony is that even as the language of the show is apparently being used in Number 10 to describe the budget fiasco of their own making, the show itself didn't manage to come up with something as farcical as the latest twist in the Abu Qatada saga.

In truth, the last minute appeal by Qatada's canny lawyers to the European Court of Human Rights's grand chamber shouldn't really make any difference. It was going to take months if not another year or more for his deportation to take place as he would have almost certainly appealed to the ECHR again anyway. Theresa May in her statement to the Commons on Tuesday said as much; those briefing the media however said that the hope was to deport him by the end of this month, something that was never going to happen. If rather than appearing completely triumphalist on Tuesday she had instead made clear that this was simply the next stage but that the end was in sight, the whole thing would not have blown up in her face as completely as it has.

As Carl Gardner writes, it's not immediately clear who's right on whether the deadline for an appeal was the Monday or the Tuesday, although it looks more likely at this moment that it's the court and not the government. Assuming that it is the court, the cock-up would still have been the equivalent of a semi-on if May and the briefers had not gone so to town on how this meant Qatada was as good as on a plane being manhandled by the finest from G4S. Instead it just feeds wholly into the narrative of how this government currently can't do anything right, that like Nicola Murray, from bean to cup, they fuck up.

Or at least this appeared to be the case. According to Justice Mitting's SIAC ruling (PDF) revoking Qatada's bail, if the ECHR's rule 39 injunction against deportation had been lifted as neither side appealed, then the process could have been a relative formality. May could have "short-circuited" the process by declaring an attempt by Qatada to quash the original deportation order as clearly unfounded, leaving his only avenues of appeal the Divisional Court and then the Court of Appeal, without the process having to start all over again at SIAC. Any further appeal to the ECHR would then apparently have to be conducted from Jordan. While it's still dubious this could have all been accomplished in 10 days, Qatada may well have been gone within "a few short weeks" rather than months.

If accurate, and again this isn't certain, then it really has been a colossal balls-up. The grand chamber might well rule that Qatada's appeal was out of time, or alternatively dismiss it as there is no danger that he personally will be tortured in Jordan, as the court ruled. This though will take at least at least a couple of months, or potentially if it does decide to hear it much longer. In the meantime, Mitting may well decide that while the process rumbles along Qatada can be safely bailed again. Having all but waved him goodbye, Qatada is left once again having the last laugh, or at least smirk. May, meanwhile, is looking like this.

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

Share |

Tuesday, April 17, 2012 

Abu Qatata, finally?

Credit where credit is due then: the government could have taken the advice of the head bangers on the Tory backbenchers (and head banger is the only way you can possibly describe Peter Bone, whose surname seems to be lacking something) or followed the wonderful example set (allegedly) by the French and Italians, and just stuck your friend and mine Abu Qatada on a plane to Jordan (the country, not the model, although they could perhaps be the ultimate odd couple in a sitcom: she's had more surgery than Michael Jackson and Joan Rivers combined; he's never had a shave).

Instead, if we're to believe Theresa May, our need to deport an unwanted extremist has struck a blow for human rights in general in the country. In practice, this doesn't look quite so clear cut. The European Court of Human Rights ruled Qatada couldn't be deported in the main because the evidence of his co-defendants, which would make up the majority of the case against him, was obtained as a result of torture. May states that as they have since been pardoned, and that whatever they say will no effect upon those pardons, "we can therefore have confidence that they would give truthful testimony". This is dubious in the extreme. Their pardons might not be affected, but this hardly means that an authoritarian state can't put pressure on them in other ways.

May also seems to contradict herself. She said in her statement that Qatada will be able to challenge the original statements made against him, then states "[I]ndeed, one of the more significant recent developments is the change to the Jordanian constitution last autumn that includes an explicit ban on the use of torture evidence". Presumably if there's an explicit ban on the use of torture evidence then Qatada won't need to challenge the original statements as they won't be admissible? And in any case, there are plenty of vile regimes that in their constitutions have explicit restrictions on certain practices that they nonetheless indulge in. As nit-picking as this might look, these are exactly the sort of doubts that should Qatada appeal again to the ECHR will have to be addressed and answered.

On the whole though it's difficult not to applaud. As there seems to be no chance whatsoever that the government will reconsider and instead decide now that Qatada should be prosecuted here, especially after it's gone to all this effort to persuade the Jordanians to in turn persuade the ECHR that they can be trusted to try him fairly, this is undoubtedly the second best option. It not only shows, as pointed out previously by Maajid Nawaz, that we will not succumb to the very thing that the government's counter-extremism strategy defines as being unacceptable, the undermining of the rule of law, it also indicates that when really pushed we can work with countries such as Jordan to help them improve their systems of government without then in turn selling them weapons as a reward. It does mean that it's doubtful we'll ever learn exactly how intertwined Qatada was with the security services, and there's plenty of reasons why we shouldn't believe that MI5 only had contact with him three or so times prior to 9/11, but if it means we are rid of one of the main reasons for why the tabloids so loathe the ECHR and in turn the Human Rights Act, although there are plenty of others, then it'll at least somewhat make up for it.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Share |

Tuesday, February 07, 2012 

Abu Qatada: same shit, different month.

One of the problems of doing much the same thing creatively over a long period is that you can fall into the trap of repeating yourself to the point where it not only turns off those who previously paid something approaching attention, it also leaves you thoroughly dispirited with how you can't seem to get out of the same old routine. While this is obviously not a problem for Liam Gallagher, and with slight modification seeming repetition can in fact launch an institution (see Private Eye, The Fall, George A. Romero), it's not quite the same with politics and commenting on it. I'd go so far to say that it's only in politics that quite so many otherwise dead subjects can be resurrected, whether because they never go away, or due to how they can be reanimated and gone over yet again, the same arguments rehashed and then ignored just as they were the last time.

So it is with Abu Qatada, the hirsute Islamic fanatic everyone loves to hate. It seems only last month that we were discussing why he should or shouldn't be deported for the umpteenth time, because it, err, was. It would be nice to think that the topic has been done to death: the government of whichever hue convinced of its righteousness in trying to deport him back to Jordan, with those few on the other side quietly pointing out that we could have avoided all this palaver had we attempted to put him on trial here in the first place, rather than sending him back into the welcoming arms of the authoritarian state he fled from. We did after all grant him asylum back in the care-free 90s, unconcerned as we were then of the phantom of exploding Muslims. Why, even those happy spooks in residence at Thames House believed they had him in their pocket, and that he wouldn't do anything to harm the state that had given him shelter.

Reacting though with weary resignation to Qatada's imminent release on "bail", if you can call a curfew of 22 hours bail, simply wouldn't suffice. We must instead go through the same cycle of outrage as last time, whether it's the Sun's take on the matter, with "evil Qatada sniggering at our humiliation and weakness", or the home secretary saying it "simply isn't acceptable" that he can't be deported, despite our diligence in attempting to ensure he won't be mistreated. It doesn't seem to matter that the danger from Qatada, such as it is, isn't that he will personally launch an attack: it's rather than he's provided theological guidance and motivation to jihadists in the past, and given the opportunity possibly will again. This makes the threat he poses under a 22 hour curfew, accompanied by surveillance, a tag and a ban on anyone visiting him who doesn't receive Home Office approval almost negligible. If anything he probably poses more of one where he currently is in HMP Long Lartin, where he can at least mix with the other detainees in the special immigration unit being held in similar circumstances to his (PDF), hardly improving the chances of any of the men having a change of heart over their extremist views.

It also doesn't matter that as Qatada's lawyer Gareth Pierce pointed out, he has been under both a control order and similar bail conditions previously, and on neither occasion was it found that he had breached those terms. He was taken back into custody the last time purely on the grounds of "national security reasons" which could not be disclosed, having embarrassed the government by shopping in broad daylight for kitchen roll and Diet Coke. Even if it turns out that the government can't reach agreement with Jordan over evidence potentially derived from torture being used against him, and the most likely outcome on that score seems to be Jordan dropping proceedings against him altogether, it hardly means he's going to be free to do whatever the hell he feels like: a TPIM, the coalition's replacement for control orders is only very slightly less rigorous.

There is a very obvious double standard at work here: regardless of what British citizens are accused of, we would refuse to send them to a country to face trial where the death penalty would definitively be sought should they be found guilty. Likewise, the outcry would be massive should the evidence they face be potentially tainted by or even be wholly the product of torture, as the ECHR has ruled in Qatada's case. You only have to look at the example of the Natwest Three, where a high profile and incredibly misleading PR campaign was launched on their behalf to see the difference when it's "our criminals" that are being sought. Despite all the scaremongering, they were back here within four years of their deportation. By comparison, and without being convicted of any crime here, Qatada was described today in parliament by the home secretary, however obliquely, as a terrorist.

As sympathetic as I am to the well articulated points of Michael White, who reasonably sets out why we have discharged our responsibilities to Qatada and indeed other non-citizens who attempt to avoid deportation to potential justice in a similar fashion, it remains the case that the whole venture has been doomed from the start. It's been a well established point of law for a long time now that you cannot deport someone back to a country where they will face the threat of mistreatment or a trial where the evidence is likely to be based on mistreatment; the House of Lords surprisingly overturned Qatada's successful court of appeal bid on that score, so it was always likely that his subsequent appeal to the European Court would succeed. Richard Norton-Taylor suggests that this whole course was supposedly chosen on the grounds that it would be easier than taking him through the courts, even though evidence of his extremist preaching, potentially amounting to inciting racial hatred, murder or terrorism is available.

Distasteful as it is that we should have dedicated such efforts and expense in protecting the rights of a man who would presumably like to see the imposition of Sharia law, this is exactly what makes us democracies. To steal wholesale from a comment posted by GuyStevenson on Eric Metcalfe's piece at the Graun, quoting
Aharon Barak, former head of the Supreme Court of Israel:

This is the destiny of democracy, as not all means are acceptable to it, and not all practices employed by its enemies are open before it. Although a democracy must often fight with one hand tied behind its back, it nonetheless has the upper hand. Preserving the Rule of Law and recognition of an individual's liberty constitutes an important component in its understanding of security. At the end of the day, they strengthen its spirit and its strength and allow it to overcome its difficulties.

It might save some time to remember this when we do have to put Qatada under that less strict regime. Except, of course, we won't.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Share |

Tuesday, January 17, 2012 

The man who knows too much.

There's something about Abu Qatada that truly terrifies the authorities in this country. Fast approaching the tenth anniversary of his initial arrest, he's spent the past decade either in Belmarsh, first under the notorious law introduced after 9/11 that allowed for the indefinite detention with charge of non-British citizens; at his home under a control order with a 14 or 22 hour curfew; and latterly, having been accused of trying to escape from this purgatory purely on the back of secret evidence which he couldn't challenge, held at Long Lartin. Unlike Babar Ahmed, who has now been held without charge awaiting deportation to America for the last 8 years and has had a high profile campaign calling for his trial in this country, hardly anyone has been prepared to speak up for the man also known as Omar Othman.

This is not exactly surprising. Having been described as Osama bin Laden's right-hand man in Europe by a Spanish judge, something noted at the beginning of almost every report on the latest legal movement in his case, and as a spiritual leader to al-Qaida when that detail is overlooked, you don't tend to receive much in the way of positive press. His case certainly isn't helped by his proximity to those other notorious Islamists, Abu Hamza and Abu Bakri Mohammed, nor by the speeches and lectures he gave which were favourites among those who went on to take part in terrorist attacks. His interview with Panorama back in 2001, reposted today, is deeply ambiguous and can be taken by both critics and those (very few) speaking in his defence as being either evidence of his general extremist views or his limiting of what is permissible under certain circumstances. Far easier to interpret is a supposed statement from him published on jihadist forums in 2009, where he makes reference to meeting Bilal Abdullah, convicted of the Glasgow airport and Tiger Tiger failed bomb attacks:

"Dr. Bilal Abdullah is a true man of Islam from all points of views; for he is knowledgeable, proficient, and resolute. I was humbled when I heard him say to me: "I was very influenced by your taped lectures.'"

The prison service for its part denied that Qatada was managing to smuggle out or issue any such communiques, although how reliable that claim is when there's a whole interview that was conducted with him also online is debatable.

Nonetheless, described by the reliable Will McCants as one of the most influential jihadi ideologues and having played a huge role in the development of contemporary takfirism, what is clear is that he was in the past an important figure to many involved in extremist Islam. Entirely opaque by contrast is his past involvement with the security services. Along with Abu Bakri, there is much debate about just how far his dealings went with MI5. Bakri has always claimed that he had a deal, described either as a covenant of security or a covenant of peace, whereby as long as he and his groupings did not advocate attacks in this country itself they would be left relatively alone. The only documentation we have which describes Qatada's interactions with MI5 is in the first ruling by SIAC (PDF), where the officer records in the second of his interviews with Qatada that "he came the closest he had to offering to assist me in any investigation of Islamic extremism", following it up by saying he would ‘report anyone damaging the interests of this country’. The officer came away from the third interview believing he had intimated that he "expected him to use that influence, wherever he could, to control the hotheads and ensure terrorism remained off the streets of London and throughout the United Kingdom". According to SIAC there were no further meetings.

This seems doubtful, especially when we consider the highly related cases of Bisher al-Rawi and Jamil el-Banna. Al-Rawi had become friends with Qatada, and following 9/11 agreed to help MI5 keep tabs on him. When Qatada went into hiding after the passing of the indefinite detention bill, al-Rawi was one of the few who knew where he was, and attempted to arrange a meeting between the two, Qatada pulling out at the last minute. His usefulness apparently over, MI5 said he could leave the country and go to Gambia, only for them to pass on fabricated material to the CIA saying they had taken bomb parts along on the journey. The result was their incarceration in Guantanamo Bay for 4 years.

At best then, it seems reasonable to believe Qatada has information which would highly embarrass MI5 should he have to be tried in the UK. At worst, he could be able to sing like the proverbial canary: if his meetings went far beyond what has so far been disclosed, it could well make the previous accusations of Londonistan look tame. As Richard Norton-Taylor also points out, and as was highlighted by the search for relevant documents following the bid for compensation by those who claimed they had been rendered to Guantanamo Bay with the connivance of MI5 and SIS, it will also be both extraordinarily expensive and time-consuming. Only last week it was announced that no one would face prosecution over their role in that policy. Avoiding a repeat of even the chance of that unpleasantness starting all over again, with all it involves for the reputation of the security services must be high on the list of priorities.

Moreover, it seems incredible considering the amount of material available that a prosecution couldn't be brought against Qatada here. The aforementioned SIAC ruling mentions that "he is reliably reported as having made a speech at a gathering in the Four Feathers Mosque in which he gave a blessing to the killing of Jews", the kind of incitement to racial hatred, or even incitement to murder which enabled the conviction of Abu Hamza. Ahmed Faraz was recently successfully prosecuted and jailed for selling books which included Sayid Qutb's Milestones, albeit apparently in a special edition "developed specifically to promote extremist ideology". If such a case can be made which could potentially affect both freedom of speech and freedom of the press, why can't one be made against the man many seem to believe was directly connected with al-Qaida? It seems to only be Qatada and the also loathsome, if not anywhere near as potentially dangerous Anjem Choudary who seem to be able to escape the law here.

This is the light in which today's ruling by the European Court of Human Rights that Qatada cannot be deported to Jordan has to be seen. While dismissing the notion that he would be liable to face torture, the court accepting the dubious promise of an authoritarian state that it will refrain from mistreating this one particular special prisoner, they upheld his claim that any trial would not be fair as the evidence against him would be overwhelmingly based on the confessions of two men, both of whom were tortured. Despite the disagreements of consecutive courts, Qatada having gone through the full process of SIAC to the Court of Appeal to the House of Lords to finally the ECHR, the government must have always known it was unlikely that he would ever be deported, whether on the worthlessness of the memorandum of understanding or as, it has turned out, under the right to a fair trial of Article 6.

What then do they do with Qatada now? Any further appeal seems liable to fail. The most obvious response from the government would be to put him under a TPim, the replacement for control orders, but this can hardly hold up in the courts indefinitely. Sooner or later, the authorities are going to have to face up to the fact that the person they fear knows much about their shady dealings is going to have to be prosecuted. They ought to start preparing for that rather than continuing to try desperately to do anything other than the decent and right thing.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Share |

Wednesday, February 18, 2009 

Abu Qutata?

The somewhat surprising decision by the House of Lords to overturn Abu Qatada's successful appeal against his deportation to Jordan is a faintly disturbing one. Qatada's appeal, although based on what he claims would be breaches of various articles of the European Convention on Human Rights, was only upheld on article 6, the right to a fair trial. The Special Immigration Appeals Committee, which hears evidence in secret and where the appellants are represented by special advocates, had already held that despite Jordan's undoubted deficiencies in its legal system, Qatada's deportation could only be thrown out if there was likely to be a "flagrant" breach of his right to a fair trial under article 6.

The law lords, in turn, have agreed with the initial decision and threw out the appeal court's ruling that SIAC had erred in not putting enough weight on the possibility that the evidence against Qatada was the result of torture. Lord Phillips, in the ruling, argues (paragraph 153):

I do not accept, however, the conclusion that he has derived from this, namely that it required a high degree of assurance that evidence obtained by torture would not be used in the proceedings in Jordan before it would be lawful to deport Mr Othman to face those proceedings. As Buxton LJ observed, the prohibition on receiving evidence obtained by torture is not primarily because such evidence is unreliable or because the reception of the evidence will make the trial unfair. Rather it is because “the state must stand firm against the conduct that has produced the evidence". That principle applies to the state in which an attempt is made to adduce such evidence. It does not require this state, the United Kingdom, to retain in this country to the detriment of national security a terrorist suspect unless it has a high degree of assurance that evidence obtained by torture will not be adduced against him in Jordan. What is relevant in this appeal is the degree of risk that Mr Othman will suffer a flagrant denial of justice if he is deported to Jordan. As my noble and learned friend Lord Hoffmann said in Montgomery v H M Advocate [2003] 1 AC 641, 649

“…an accused who is convicted on evidence obtained from him by torture has not had a fair trial. But the breach of article 6(1) lies not in the use of torture (which is, separately, a breach of article 3) but in the reception of the evidence by the court for the purposes of determining the charge".


The reason why this decision is so troubling is obvious: the Lords have not only ruled that they accept that the trial Qatada is likely to face in Jordan would not reach the standards we would demand under article 6, but also that it's additionally likely that the evidence against him is the product of torture, as he himself claims. This however does not still add up to what the Lords would consider to be a "flagrant" breach of article 6, which is the threshold at which deporting Qatada to Jordan would be unlawful.

Qatada is quite understandably taking his case to his last port of call, the European Court itself, where the ruling could quite possibly turn out to be another landmark, similar to Chalal vs United Kingdom. Nothing should as yet be ruled out, as the House of Lords ruling is in itself something of a surprise, and one which has been criticised by all the main human rights groups.

It has to be said that it is a horrifically difficult decision to have to make, one which Lord Hope authoratitavely comments on at the beginning of his own argument, something well worth quoting in full:

209. Most people in Britain, I suspect, would be astonished at the amount of care, time and trouble that has been devoted to the question whether it will be safe for the aliens to be returned to their own countries. In each case the Secretary of State has issued a certificate under section 33 of the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Immigration Act 2001 that the aliens’ removal from the United Kingdom would be conducive to the public good. The measured language of the statute scarcely matches the harm that they would wish to inflict upon our way of life, if they were at liberty to do so. Why hesitate, people may ask. Surely the sooner they are got rid of the better. On their own heads be it if their extremist views expose them to the risk of ill-treatment when they get home.

210. That however is not the way the rule of law works. The lesson of history is that depriving people of its protection because of their beliefs or behaviour, however obnoxious, leads to the disintegration of society. A democracy cannot survive in such an atmosphere, as events in Europe in the 1930s so powerfully demonstrated. It was to eradicate this evil that the European Convention on Human Rights, following the example of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 10 December 1948, was prepared for the Governments of European countries to enter into. The most important word in this document appears in article 1, and it is repeated time and time again in the following articles. It is the word “everyone". The rights and fundamental freedoms that the Convention guarantees are not just for some people. They are for everyone. No one, however dangerous, however disgusting, however despicable, is excluded. Those who have no respect for the rule of law - even those who would seek to destroy it - are in the same position as everyone else.

211. The paradox that this system produces is that, from time to time, much time and effort has to be given to the protection of those who may seem to be the least deserving. Indeed it is just because their cases are so unattractive that the law must be especially vigilant to ensure that the standards to which everyone is entitled are adhered to. The rights that the aliens invoke in this case were designed to enshrine values that are essential components of any modern democratic society: the right not to be tortured or subjected to inhuman or degrading treatment, the right to liberty and the right to a fair trial. There is no room for discrimination here. Their protection must be given to everyone. It would be so easy, if it were otherwise, for minority groups of all kinds to be persecuted by the majority. We must not allow this to happen. Feelings of the kind that the aliens’ beliefs and conduct give rise to must be resisted for however long it takes to ensure that they have this protection.


That's around as detailed and sound an argument against the tabloid case for kicking them out immediately that could possibly be made. It's therefore a shame that Lords have effectively ruled that both unfair trials and evidence obtained by torture, as long as both occur outside the countries which have signed up to the ECHR and as long as the breach is not deemed to be "flagrant" are in some way acceptable. It's true that this is not their argument, which is as legally sound as it could possibly be, but that is in effect what they have decided. It comes, as we have seen, at a time when our own connivance with torture is being exposed as never before, when questions are being raised about how deeply involved we have been during the initial stage of the so-called war on terror with almost routine breaches of international law. It gives the impression, however undeserved, that our own values concerning such practices are becoming more jaded and diluted just when the opposite should be the case.

Fundamentally, the extended legal drama concerning Qatada should not have ever even began. If Qatada is as dangerous as the government claims he is, and if he is indeed guilty of inciting racial hatred and radicalising Muslims as he is accused of doing, the question remains why he cannot be tried here. Similarly, we still don't know just how involved Qatada was with our security services, when there are claims in the public domain that he was a double agent, albeit one it seems who is still reasonably well respected within takfirist jihadist circles. If the evidence against him cannot currently be considered outside of closed sessions, then intercept evidence needs to be introduced, although it needs to be in any event urgently. Both of these things should have been considered and potentially implemented before we resorted to simply getting rid of him, back to a country with a poor human rights record that by our own courts' admission would not reach our own standards regarding a fair trial. Instead we seem to be making compromises regarding torture that we need not be. That is an indictment of our politicians, rather than our courts of law.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Share |

Friday, August 01, 2008 

Jordan gets her kit off for the Times.

A couple of years back the Guardian delighted its readers by giving column space to Peaches Honeyblossom Michelle Charlotte Angel Vanessa Geldof to talk about herself whilst one of the regulars was away. Giving Simon Jenkins a run for his money, she wrote of MySpace, her boyfriend and her dog.

At least Peaches probably wrote the column herself. You can't necessarily say the same for Katie Price, who's taken to the pages of the Times (yes, that's the Times) to bemoan the fact that she wasn't allowed to attend a polo meeting, told, despite paying £6,000, that she wasn't the sort of person they wanted.

Normally this blog would be completely opposed to snobbery it all its forms, including to a thick as horse shit glamour model who personifies everything wrong with modern culture. Can you however imagine a more suitable place for a missile or meteor to strike than the Cartier Polo International, at the Chinawhite tent, where those inside have paid £6,000 for the privilege of watching people who resemble horses ride horses while whacking around a white ball?

No, we couldn't afford to lose Jordan in such a way. There has to surely be a more fitting, violent and amusing demise for her to suffer. Like a knitting needle to the chest.

(I'm dreadfully sorry for this unfunny rubbish. Jenni Russell, incidentally, metaphorically eviscerates her.)

Labels: , , , , , ,

Share |

Friday, July 25, 2008 

In praise of... the death of Peter Andre and Jordan.

Whichever Grauniad leader writer was responsible for this Pseuds Corner-worthy abortion on unusual names ought to hang their head in shame:

Celebrities Peter André and Jordan mixed up their mothers - Thea and Amy - to come up with Princess Tiáamii for their daughter, achieving a neat feminist counterbalance to patrilineal surnaming (though they may not put it that way).

It's already bad enough that you've had the desperate luck to be born into a family of such complete and utter cunts, but being given a name which is going to haunt you long after they've shuffled off this mortal coil (hopefully in the most violent and painful way imaginable) really perhaps ought to open them up beforehand to legal action.

Labels: , , , , ,

Share |

Wednesday, April 09, 2008 

The right if difficult decision.

The appeal court judges have come to the right if difficult and strewn with problems ruling that Abu Qatada should not be deported back to Jordan. Before jumping on the the typical blaming of the Human Rights Act, it should be noted that the judges' decision was on the grounds that he would not receive a fair trial, not that he was at risk of personally being tortured or mistreated. No one might care if someone who produced fatwas used during the Algerian civil war to kill individuals declared suitably un-Islamic was tortured, but most of us do still care about whether someone receives a trial that doesn't have the appearance of resembling a kangaroo court.

The whole extended legal farce has been one idiocy followed by another. We know quite well that Qatada, much like Hamza and Bakri Mohammad, had at least some sort of relationship with the security services; how far it actually went, whether they were informing or whether there was some sort of pact by where they didn't call for attacks against this country in their preaching is much harder to ascertain. Bisher al-Rawi, formerly held at Guantanamo, was repatriated here because it emerged that he had in fact been helping MI5 all along keep tabs on Qatada, while Jamil el-Banna was approached and urged to become an intelligence asset shortly before he left for Gambia, where he and al-Rawi were subsequently arrested and rendered to Gitmo. Whether this is part of the reason why he has not been simply charged with inciting racial hatred like Hamza eventually was is unclear, but it seems that as with Bakri, the authorities have decided it's much easier to simply get rid of him than to try to build a case against him.

This is strange because despite the case against him in Jordan, it was his preaching here that undoubtedly has influenced some that have subsequently become suicide bombers or plotted terrorist attacks. Like with Hamza and Bakri, the services undoubtedly know what he was up to, and probably have tape after tape of his speeches, or at the very least intercepts of some of his telephone calls. While we simply can't know whether it would be possible to try Qatada here if intercept evidence was allowed in court, a ban that the head of the FBI recently denounced as "untenable", it's difficult to believe that if the government was truly exercised that it couldn't be able to build a viable case against him. Perhaps the difficulty is that unlike Hamza, the US doesn't seem to be making any efforts to attempt to extradite him, where he would undoubtedly face a far longer prison sentence than any he would ultimately face here. Even that isn't certain though, as although Qatada has never been personally linked to any plots here, those recently sentenced have faced sentences of over 20 years.

At the heart of the issue ought to be the acknowledgement that deporting anyone to a country that practises torture, and Jordan is certainly one, with Human Rights Watch only yesterday reporting that up until 2004 Jordan was one of the destinations for those who went through the rendition programme, and they weren't being sent there for the beautiful beaches and excellent prison facilities, ought to be the absolute last resort. Instead the government has used it as the very first resort. "Memorandums of understanding" that aren't worth the paper they're typed on are a ludicrous justification for doing something that we would have never have done prior to 9/11. Under Brown we've been told that despite what Blair said, the rules of the game haven't changed. They ought to prove it by doing the decent thing over Qatada.

Labels: , , , , ,

Share |

Tuesday, September 25, 2007 

The downfall of humanity inexorably approaches.

For those who like to believe that there's some sort of equilibrium that ensures that for every attack there is an act of defense, they'll have doubtless enjoyed the juxtaposition of a judge denouncing the Jeremy Kyle show for its "human bear-baiting":

He said: "I have had the misfortune, very recently, of viewing the Jeremy Kyle show. It seems to me that the purpose of this show is to effect a morbid and depressing display of dysfunctional people whose lives are in turmoil ... for the purposes of titillating bored members of the public who have nothing better to do in the morning than watch this trash on TV.

with the revelation that Jordan's latest "novel", Crystal, has sold more copies than the entire Booker shortlist combined. Kerry Katona, probably Jordan's main rival, has announced that "her" first novel is also shortly to be released.

On one level, you have to admire the diligence, inventiveness and sheer success of the PR firms that have managed to so skillfully sculpture and buff these very ordinary individuals into apparently multi-talented superstars who can turn their hands to seemingly anything. Monitoring the Sun as I do for my sad, creepy purposes, there's hardly a day goes by when there isn't some sort of story about either of these pneumatic women, whether it's yet another outspoken, vacuous assault on some other celebrity and their misdeeds, or alternatively a flash of their bodily assets which long since lost any of their already feeble allure. For all its inherent vileness, a recent headline on one of the celebrity magazines featuring Katona was perhaps the greatest example of the horrible hole at the centre of their work: announcing the birth of her latest baby, which had been born premature, she described it as looking like a frozen chicken from Iceland, plugging the supermarket that has featured her in its adverts. That to describe a living, breathing child as looking like a frozen dead bird shows a remarkable lack of apparent humanity was neither here nor there; far more important was repaying her dues to the company which has doubtless poured wads of cash into her bank account.

All of their work though is directed at exploiting the very people which the newspapers which print their releases are meant to be speaking for, and/or protecting. Despite all the fury recently directed at the BBC and other channels for various fakery and deceptions on their programmes, such manufactured phony characters are still to be feted, celebrated and endlessly pursued. Not a single one of Jordan's books has actually been written by her, and as Hadley Freeman points out in the article, while autobiographies are widely known to be ghosted, this latest development, the fictional book from a celebrity is trying its hardest to keep the reality from the actual readers. Rebecca Farnworth is the ghost behind the bust of Jordan, but the only mention you'll find of her anywhere in Jordan's supposed novel is on the copyright page.

Does it really make any difference that such books are vastly outselling the works of literature which are plucked from usual relative obscurity to be feted as a novel of the year? After all, as widely despised as Dan Brown and his equivalent of taking a shit on the manuscript of Ulysses or Crime and Punishment the Da Vinci Code is, at least it's got people who usually wouldn't read to pick up a book, or at least the argument goes. You could also argue that the reason that Jordan's opus has sold so many copies is probably because it's been both heavily pushed and heavily discounted, while the Booker shortlisted works are mostly still in hardback and as much as £4 more expensive, at least going by Amazon's prices.

None of this however explains why a woman known only for her numerous breast augmentations and widely considered to have around as much grey matter between her ears as a rocking horse does can somehow even begin to be able to sell copies of a book that widely mirrors her own attempts to become a singer, except one suspects that in the novel "Crystal" succeeds where Jordan has notably failed, especially when she has not one but two autobiographies, presumably for the same reason as the Queen has two birthdays. Rather, it suggests what perhaps some of us have long feared: that these women, fucked up blow-up dolls rather than anything approaching human are not just becoming role models but that their contempt for anything outside their own tiny little world is spreading. Why bother to expand your mind when you can expand your breasts? Why take something a little challenging to the beach when you can read another fatuous tale along the lines of the television programmes and magazines that you read at home?

I realise I'm being melodramatic and overstating my case. The rise of the idiots though is certainly real, and they're being helped along in their rise through those who most certainly aren't stupid: they're just another cog in the system of contempt for the average person which isn't the preserve of the metropolitan elite as the right likes to have it, but by the magazines and celebrity filled rags that are inextricably linked to the most powerful in our society. Their preference is certainly for compliant rather than questioning, and this latest branching out is certainly helping with the former.

Labels: , , , , ,

Share |

Tuesday, July 24, 2007 

From despair to where.

i want to thank this cultural production for the sounds that it brings
it makes us amplify our manifestos, and it enables me to sing
i want to thank you, my little nemesis, for everything
for making my head explode and my ears ring
The (International) Noise Conspiracy - Will it Ever be Quiet?


In Haunted, Chuck Palahniuk's pungent satire on reality television and the sensationalism of the modern media, the array of characters that gather together in an abandoned theatre, locked away from the outside world for months in order to write their fictional masterpieces, conspire against their host and his helper by sabotaging the food supply, the water, the heating and even the toilets. Their modus operandi is that only genuine suffering, accompanied by physical, rather than mental scars, guarantees exposure in our modern times. Like a version of Alive! in a pitch black warehouse with similarly dark humour, our protagonists, named after the short, personal stories they tell each other, cut off their own body parts and partake in cannibalism, all with the goal of having their tragic, distorted tale of being locked up by an evil tyrant host who tortures them turned into the last word on hostage taking, with all the benefits that come with being famous for all the wrong reasons.

Being both satire and fiction, Palahniuk characteristically takes both the desire to be infamous and for financial reward to as near to the mark as he can. Back here on Planet Earth, all you really need to be infamous, loved, admired and hated in equal measure is to have big tits and a tiny brain. We've seen so many incarnations of this down the years that you would have thought that by now it would have become passe, predictable and tawdry. After 85 million years of evolution, however, all you still need to get the average man on his knees, tongue lolling out of his mouth, worshipping at the feet of a goddess is for her to have a large pair of mammaries and that knowing, sultry, cheeky smile.

In a world in which the weekly "lads'" mags compete to get as many nipples into their soon to be splattered pages, it's perhaps not a surprise that creatures such as Katie Price and her mongoloid husband Peter Andre exist, but it is that they still demand mass attention, lust and envy. Their relationship with the public is amongst the most cynical that the celebrity world has managed to concoct, and by far one of the most exploitative. Their missives to the world are not merely reported or given out in PR statements; they are written up in the elegiac, fawning, sycophantic prose that inhabits magazines such as OK! and Hello!, even when their personal views are so rudimentary and base that it's impossible to somehow make them more dignified.

It's through this modern day version of Moses receiving the 10 commandments from God that we learn of the choice of name that Price and Andre have chosen for their recently arrived baby girl. According to BBC News:

Glamour model Jordan and pop star Peter Andre have named their baby daughter Princess Tiaamii.

You have to feel for the poor child. While she may be brought up in opulence beyond the dreams of nearly every single one of us, not only does she have to suffer having two of the least charming individuals on the planet for her parents, she also has to endure a moniker that not even the most pretentious Grauniad/Telegraph reader would dare to announce in the pages of either august organ. Jordan and Andre subsequently explain how their synapses somehow managed to fuse together such a unlikely combination:

Jordan, who was born Katie Price, said the first name was chosen was because the girl was "our princess".

And Andre came up with the middle name by combining his mother's name, Thea, with that of Jordan's mother, Amy.

No, I'm not sure how Thea somehow fits into Tiaamii either. But wait! There's yet more:

"We've put an accent over the first A to make it more exotic and two Is at the end just to make it look a bit different," Jordan told OK! magazine.

Somehow, you get the feeling that this most learned of couples doesn't really understand why accents are usually used. Surely they could have decided on both a more exotic and different name by following the example of the mother's nom de guerre; how about Princess Syria, Iraq or Egypt? Or how about moving regions to Africa and instead having Princess Zimbabwe, Chad or Darfur? They could have shown their political awareness while also indulging their other desires!

Celebrities giving their children stupid, bizarre, laughable names isn't a new thing. The reigning Queen up until her death was undoubtedly Paula Yates, whose last attempt, naming her daughter with Michael Hutchence Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lily set the bar for all to follow. It's not as if the trend isn't just with those who can be compared in the intelligence stakes with Pooh bear: Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow named their daughter Apple, probably to be joined later in life by her sisters Kumquat, Lychees and Pomegranate. Things still could have been far worse for Princess Tiaamii, as Jordan explains:

Jordan also revealed that she had considered calling the girl Tinkerbell, but rejected the idea because too many celebrities had chosen it for their dogs.

One has to wonder then what the problem was.

As much as some of us loathe these grotesque, disgusting, most grasping and desperate of personalities, there are plenty of others that adore them, and follow their every movement as if they were a deity. In addition to this, their control of the popular mind is such that the most popular children's names list in 2002 recorded 51 newborn girls being called Chardonnay, while an additional 14 spelt it Chardonay. A lifetime of mockery awaits them. Like when the emergence of Kylie sparked a surge in girls' being called after the Australian then soap star, the same list also recorded 221 children named "Shakira", while 448 plumped for "Aaliyah".

More than anything, it's difficult to comprehend just how a woman whose biggest claim to fame is getting her plastic norks out is somehow one of the richest women living in Britain today. A sneering Daily Mail article, on "celebrity chavs", claimed that she has a fortune in the region of £30 million. It's equally astonishing that her autobiography is supposedly the 4th biggest selling of all time in this country. It can't be a coincidence that others with no story to tell, with massively warped senses of their own importance almost verging on psychosis, like Charley, currently in the Big Brother house, claim to be writing their own life stories. It's not as if there isn't a pedigree to follow: other non-entities such as Chantelle and Pete have had their lives snapped up and quickly ghosted into book form, most probably by a once aspiring novelist reduced to whoring themselves out to make ends meet.

According to Cosmo Landesman, to claim that such individuals are famous only because they are famous is a "cliched tautology", as they represent the very heart of modern capitalism. Landesman is correct, but not in the way he thinks he is. They represent the very heart of modern cynical capitalism, manufactured, promoted and prepared for almost any eventuality, except murder or paedophilia, the only two remaining deadly sins in the celebrity world. Those such as Jordan aren't able to rise to the top of their own initiative: they're plucked from their relative obscurity and moulded into the ultimate marketable image, entering into a Faustian pact where their "owner" makes pots of money while the star makes a reasonable amount, with the deal eventually ending when the brand becomes too old or out of date to appeal. A new generation of young people see this happening and think that they too can be victorious in this battle: being a braying, ignorant idiot can be incredibly profitable, as can the body you received. That only a few will ever make it doesn't matter: it's a sort of crude, backwards American dream, where the individuality and naivety involved in the belief in that nightmare become even more overwhelming.

The only real surprise is that there hasn't be any organised youth opposition to this development both in capitalism and society: the closest we might well have come so far is in the obnoxious Silver Ring Thing and other similar religious based movements, which have their own crude ideology and agendas behind them. In an age of supposed individualism, most actually seek both to belong and to adhere to a set of values of a certain grouping, whether it be trendy, gothish, gang-based or otherwise. It's perhaps a hangover from the days of the End of History that it seems both old-fashioned and dorky to dare to resist outside these already preconceived, marketed groups, as well as the sum of peer pressure to conform that no such grouping has emerged. If individualism is ever really going to establish itself, then the age of mass trends will need to itself become a source of ridicule, and while its still so profitable, that is far off. With it, the troglodytes and trollops of the celebrity world will continue to prosper.

Labels: , ,

Share |

Monday, February 26, 2007 

To deport or not to deport the man with the beard.

Few are going to shed any tears over the decision by the Special Immigration Appeals Commission that Abu Qutada can be deported back to Jordan, where he was convicted in absentia of being involved in a number of bomb attacks. While it's impossible to know just how involved he was with al-Qaida prior to 9/11, and some of the charges against him may well be unsubstantiated, it's clear that he was one of three clerics, along with Abu Hamza and Omar Bakri Mohammad, who were the most influential and respected extremist Islamist preachers in the United Kingdom until recently.

While the charge sheets against Hamza and Bakri are an inch thick, nowhere near as much is known about Qutada. We know that videos of his sermons were found in one of the flats in Germany occupied by the 9/11 hijackers, that his declarations were read out at Al-Muhajiroun meetings, and that it's possible he may have been a MI5 double agent, but other than that Qutada is something of an enigma. For a man who is alleged to have the same mindset as the average al-Qaida influenced Salafi jihadist, his plea for Norman Kember to be released by his captives in Iraq was certainly out of character, especially when you consider how others like him are firm believers that non-Muslims and anyone else they don't like are kuffar. It could of course been an attempt to get better treatment in prison, or to try to stop his possible deportation to Jordan, but the authorities made clear at the time that he had not been offered anything in return for his message, and it seems that he approached them rather than them approaching him.

The decision is really not so much about Qutada but about whether we should deport anyone, even terrorist sympathisers/suspects to countries which are known to practice torture. While Jordan is by no means the most egregious of Middle Eastern countries when it comes to mistreatment of prisoners, Human Rights Watch documents how confessions are obtained through sleep deprivation, mock executions and prolonged solitary confinement, as well as beatings. Amnesty International, in a report titled "Your confessions are ready to sign", accuses the Jordanian government of being entirely complicit in the practicing of torture:

they maintain a system of incommunicado detention which facilitates torture and other ill-treatment of detainees and a related special security court whose judgments regularly appear to be based on little more than "confessions" which defendants allege were extracted under torture or other duress.

The fabled memorandum of understanding, which has Jordan agreeing to treat anyone deported to the country humanely, is little more than worthless. It's the equivalent of a nudge and a wink, as well as making it more than clear that torture is indeed practiced in Jordan. The Adaleh Centre for Human Rights Studies (site is in Arabic) has agreed to monitor anyone who is deported from the UK, but just how much access they will be allowed will not become clear until it actually happens.

The main question, as ever, is why Qutada cannot be tried here. SIAC itself is little more than a kangaroo court; it's allowed to hear evidence in secret, and Qutada has been allowed few opportunities to challenge the evidence held against him, other than his rather ambigious sermons which are in the public domain, which are nowhere near as bloodcurdling nor delivered in the oratory more associated with the swivel-eyed Hamza and Bakri. SIAC has been used previously to take a seeming revenge on one of the men acquitted in the "ricin" trial; it heard the exact same evidence as in that trial, with added "secret" evidence, before coming to the decision to recommend that he could be deported to Algeria.

The judge in that case, Mr Justice Ouseley, said that it was "inconceivable" that "Y" would be ill-treated. He could not have been proved more wrong more quickly. Two men who were being held under suspicion of links with terrorism who decided to return to Algeria of their own accord after growing weary of the process and who were promised they would not face criminal proceedings under the amnesty put in place after the civil war, have since been arrested and charged with.... terrorism offences. While there is no "memorandum of understanding" with Algeria, it's an incident that was both predictable and bound to embarrass the government. However, as the men were "terrorist suspects", it's unlikely there'll be any change in policy as a result.

Reasons for why the government wants to be rid of Qutada are manifest. He's a symbol of "Londonistan", however far that particular neologism has been exaggerated. MI5 has denied that he was an agent or ever held in a safehouse by them, two things that had previously been reported, but he's still involved with the rendition of Bisher al-Rawi. al-Rawi is believed to have spied on Qutada for MI5, but outlived his usefulness once Qutada was arrested. On leaving for Gambia, he was stopped by MI5 but allowed to travel, only for MI5 to inform the CIA that he was carrying bomb parts. He was transferred to Guantanamo Bay, and during his Combatant Status Review Tribunal, he was asked mainly about his relationship with Qutada (PDF). Both men are clearly an embarrassment to MI5, whether all the allegations are true or not.

How much of the secret evidence held against Qutada is made up of intercepts we will probably never know. A number of his speeches and his interviews are however available, and if the authorities were so inclined, they could probably get enough together for a prosecution along the lines of the one that resulted in Abu Hamza being convicted for inciting racial hatred. It is however much easier to try to deport him, therefore getting rid of him once and for all. Unlike Bakri, who left before he was arrested in similar circumstances, and who is still preaching his hate in web casts from Lebanon, Qutada faces at the least a long term of imprisonment in Jordan.

Yesterday's Observer argued that it was a lesser evil leaving him to be potentially abused in Jordan than for him to remain here. Such an argument is dubious at best, and "jihadisbad", who, as you might guess isn't the most liberal commentator on Islam in his comment says it's "naive" to think he won't be tortured. If this deportation is to happen, and it appears extremely likely, then the memorandum of understanding needs to be enforced, and properly. No half measures should be tolerated. It may be that there'll be the tiniest violin in the world playing if he is in fact mistreated, but the ruling sets a potentially dangerous precedent, and again shows how little our respect for human rights often is when it comes to those we don't like.

Labels: , , , ,

Share |

About

  • This is septicisle
profile

Links

Powered by Blogger
and Blogger Templates