London, Asharq Al-Awsat- A number of London-based Islamists have expressed their anger at the insistence of British prison that the wife of leading fundamentalist Omar Mahmoud Abu-Omar, alias Abu-Qatada, who is known as Bin Laden’s ambassador, and the spiritual guide of the Al-Qaeda Organization in Europe, remove her Niqab before being allowed to visit him, despite the existence of fatwas that say it is Islamically permissible to do so.
A statement by Abu-Qatada’s family, which Asharq Al-Awsat received via the Islamic Observatory in London, which is a London-based human-rights organization concerned with the news of Islamists around the world, said: “The administration of Long Lartin Prison in Northern England demanded that the wife of the leading fundamentalist removes her Niqab in front of the camera before getting in to visit him.”
The statement went on to say: “The wardens and inspectors of Long Lartin Prison deliberately force Muslim women to uncover their hair in front of the prison cameras to allow them to enter for visits. After we refused, they provoked us and said that women are allowed to uncover their hair, and that we were obliged to acquiesce to their order because some Muslim ulema have issued fatwas allowing this.”
The statement adds: According to their laws, which they legislated, women have the right to refuse to uncover their hair and have the right to have a barrier to prevent the exposure of the head; however, their racism made them force us to go back, and they prevented us from carrying out the visit after we spent three hours traveling, and waited for hours in Long Lartin Prison.
Abu-Qatada’s family says: “These have been their practices from the beginning, and we have suffered from them for a long time; however, these practices are getting fiercer everyday against our faith. They are restricting us, and take revenge on us by all means through false behavior and pretexts, such as canceling and delaying the visits, and by deliberately making the dogs touch us.”
The Islamic Observatory denounced the practices and measures adopted by the British Home Office against the Muslims detained in British prisons. In a telephone interview with Asharq A-Awsat, Egyptian Islamist Yasir al-Sirri [director of the Islamic Observatory] said: “What took place was a violation of personal freedom and sanctities.” Al-Sirri points out that there is no objection to a British policewoman seeing the faces of the Muslim women visitors – as used to happen before – i.e. the wives of the Islamists detained in British prisons would uncover their faces in front of a British policewoman in a room dedicated for this, but not in front of cameras that could be monitored by men. Al-Sirri says that Abu-Qatada is detained in the British prison without charge or trial, and he is waiting for the decision by the European Court for Human Rights on deporting him to Jordan. Al-Sirri also says: It seems that the political practices do not change with the change of ruling parties. He also expresses his fear that Britain would turn into a graveyard for human rights.
A number of Islamists are detained in Long Lartin Prison. They include Khalid al-Fawwaz (Saudi) and Adil Abdul-Majid Abdul-Bari (who is believed to be a member of the Egyptian Jihad Organization). Both detainees are waiting for a decision of the application to extradite them to the United States on the basis of claims of involvement in the blowing up of the two US Embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam in 1988.
The European Court for Human Rights has asked Britain to delay the deportation of Abu-Qatada until the appeal he filed is decided. The British Home Office signed an order to deport Abu-Qatada after the Home Office won a previous appeal; however, it is expected that the Home Office will accept to suspend the deportation until his appeal to the Strasbourg Court is decided [despite the fact that it has said that] Abu-Qatada “ought to be deported to Jordan to wait for the court to look into the case carefully.”
Abu-Qatada is trying to cancel the order to deport him, and send him back to Jordan, where he faces the possibility of exposure to torture after charging him with terrorism. Abu-Qatada was tried twice – in 1998 and 2000 – by the State Security Court in Jordan, and he was sentenced to 15 years hard labor imprisonment for terrorist activities and links to Al-Qaeda.
The British House of Lords, the highest judicial court in Britain, rejected an appeal filed by Abu-Qatada, and said that he could be deported. The appeal filed by Abu-Qatada at the European Court for Human Rights is considered his last opportunity to avoid deportation. The European Court has awarded Abu-Qatada 2,800 euros as compensation for what it considered to be random detention in Britain after the September 2001 attacks; this decision angered Britain, and was described by former British Home Secretary Jackie Smith as “disappointing.”