I have no peers in America

Tarek Mehanna, 27, an American Muslim, has spent years in solitary confinement and, as of 4 days ago and after the statement below, may spend years more. His words remind us of the wrongness of invading another country, that we should “bring the troops home”, and that 100,000 foreign troops killing and brutalising across Afghanistan will just utterly fail in a country that really knows and understands Islam. 

 

TAREK’S SENTENCING STATEMENT

APRIL 12, 2012

Read to Judge O’Toole during his sentencing, April 12th 2012.

In the name of God the most gracious the most merciful Exactly four years ago this month I was finishing my work shift at a local hospital. As I was walking to my car I was approached by two federal agents. They said that I had a choice to make: I could do things the easy way, or I could do them the hard way. The “easy ” way, as they explained, was that I would become an informant for the government, and if I did so I would never see the inside of a courtroom or a prison cell. As for the hard way, this is it. Here I am, having spent the majority of the four years since then in a solitary cell the size of a small closet, in which I am locked down for 23 hours each day. The FBI and these prosecutors worked very hard-and the government spent millions of tax dollars – to put me in that cell, keep me there, put me on trial, and finally to have me stand here before you today to be sentenced to even more time in a cell.

In the weeks leading up to this moment, many people have offered suggestions as to what I should say to you. Some said I should plead for mercy in hopes of a light sentence, while others suggested I would be hit hard either way. But what I want to do is just talk about myself for a few minutes… (more)

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Am I bovvered?

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As the Government is about to monitor all emails, websites visited, phone calls and texts, times, dates and to whom, should we care?

http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/32400

Why should anyone be bothered? Surely it’s just another excuse for a paranoid government to pay anoraks to sit in disused aircraft hangars sifting through gigabytes of garbage for nuggets of our digital dross.

Perhaps we should put this in context.

Typically, governments ask for these powers years after they’ve been doing it anyway. But it’s not draughty, disused aircraft hangars they use, it’s state of the art facilities like Menwith Hill, near Harrogate, and GCHQ Cheltenham.

It’s even made it into folklore: the “Echelon” of the Bourne series, is very real and the name for the main information system that Menwith runs.

Menwith intercepts pretty much all electronic traffic in the northern hemisphere. In real time. Cheltenham takes the UK specific data and Maryland NSA gets stuff the US flags. All of it is trawled through by dedicated computer systems which make ours look like they’re used to play Tetris.

Any reasons to be concerned?

Leveson

The Leveson Inquiry is into whether any journalists hacked phones or paid police officers for people’s private numbers. Obviously both are illegal. The practice has cost the privacy of the Dowler family, Hugh Grant, and many others. It’s cost a whole newspaper and Rebakah Brooks’ job, with more to come. But it is also against the law to give out someone’s private number without authorisation. Senior police officers and Murdoch journalists continue to be implicated.

The EU Commission wants it

The Data Retention Directive, 2009, requires member states to monitor all communications traffic, information on all emails, phone calls and texts, to whom made, for a year. Those countries that remember state surveillance have rejected the data retention laws. The UK doesn’t. It’s been rejected by Germany, Czech Republic,  Germany, Romania, Cyprus and Hungary. Plus, there are four other countries which won’t even consider data retention in the first place: Sweden, Greece, Ireland and Austria.

So you’re happy with a Stasi Britain?

East Germany had a world famous police force. The Stasi would spy on not just anyone, but everyone. Neighbours were encouraged to spy on each other and report anything of interest no matter how trivial. The Stasi built up huge files on everyone. This legislation allows that to happen here, automatically, on everyone. It’s like having a bug in every living room to be turned on or off at some official whim. Get involved with the wrong person, wrong group, go to the wrong website at the wrong time and you could be in trouble, in jail, in prison, tortured, dead. Who sets the parameters on who is a problem? Terrorists? Unoinists? Climate campers? Students? UK uncut? Occupy? Mass surveillance has had effects on other countries. Imagine Hitler coming to power with this technology. Or what if you were left-leaning during McCarthy America. Or homosexual in Iran?

Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 911 had a retired guy who called Bush a moron at the gym. A day later, the FBI turned up at his door! Don’t think it will happen here? Why make it easy for them? Oppose it. Privacy and freedom go together.

China and Iran

Blocks access to a very large number of websites in order to control its people. Iran’s government company TCI has a near monopoly on telecoms including web traffic. It’s easy to surveille people. Human rights groups report many cases where these powers have been used against dissidents. A new deal with China has recently given Iran a major upgrade in monitoring technology.

Violates human rights

The right to privacy is a human right. Still happy to make a gift of your privacy to big, unaccountable government? Your family’s? Your friends? The ubiquitous surveillance of every human being is not compatible with fundamental rights. The right to privacy is like being able to sit at home without the police raiding your house! You wouldn’t want a cop peering over your shoulder watching everything you write, wherever, to whoever. They are not allowed to do that, by law. Would you want them to be? The web powers already exist but only with a warrant. Why throw away that safeguard of having a magistrate assess it? Why create a law, whereby whether we agree or not, they can monitor all our calls and emails – just like that? Not long ago similar snooping powers were briefly the right of council officials too. Just who will be able to watch your communications? And why?

It’s not proportional

Registering everybody’s communications, just because some tiny fraction may come in useful in some later criminal investigation, is not proportional. The police are already successful. Crime is dropping in Britain. If you consider our prison population – the highest rate in the EU bar one – we need fewer powers not more! We need a people’s state not a police one.

Hasn’t Britain enough police powers already?

We have the most CCTVs per head in the world. Too many. We have ANPR that can track vehicles on main roads, automatically, spotting cars without insurance. We have any number of creepings along the road to a much more pervasive controlling state – a DNA database, ID cards, etc, will all make their comeback. Police have lots more powers about how to police demonstrations, or whether they can happen at all.

So be bovvered.

Even if you think that you have nothing to hide – doesn’t mean the state won’t think that you have.

Christopher Alder: Quest for Justice

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Janet Alder describing her brother Christopher, his death and the ongoing campaign.

There have been 333 deaths in custody since 1998.

There has been no officer found guilty for 42 years.

On Sunday we held a memorial for a man that Hull police left to die on their station floor.

The vigil was held by Queens Gardens police station, one of many since Christopher Alder’s death on the 1st April, 14 years ago. Supporters gathered on the beautiful day. The press came too and Janet Alder, Chris’s sister, spoke to cameras and reporters reminding them of the story so far.

A coach pulled up in a while at the end of the road. A big, colourful entrance was made by supporters from London marching up the street and chanting “No Justice, No Peace” with drums too.

Speeches were made in the sunshine and everyone was invited to say which organisations and campaigns they represented before people set off on a demonstration around town.

Later, at the Unison building, about 100 people packed the meeting organised by the Hull Trades Council to hear the latest from the campaigners for justice for their loved ones.

Christopher Alder Campaign, Hull Trades Council

It was a stunning meeting. Chris himself died 14 years ago. But there were other people from London, from Manchester, who have lost men to police brutality and they spoke passionately too.

The family of Anthony Grainger shot dead by Manchester police in a supermarket car park. Friends and family of reggae star Smiley Culture (David Emmanuel) stabbed through the heart during a police raid – killing himself – according to police. And speeches for Sean Rigg, 40, who died in Brixton police station, a gifted musician.

In Chris’ case, he had been on a night out. Towards the end of the evening, he had been involved in a fight and he was taken to hospital for treatment. Apparently he became troublesome, possibly due to his head injury. The police were called and arrested him for behaviour likely to breach the peace.

Arriving at the police station, he was carried unconscious from the police van. Mysteriously he had lost his belt, something still unexplained today.

Chris was left with his trousers around his knees, obviously having difficulty breathing, on the police station floor. And eventually died there while police speculated he was feigning illness and made racist comments.

In 2000, at the inquest, the family received a verdict of unlawful killing. During questioning, the five police officers concerned refused to answers on over 150 occasions. Further court actions haven’t moved things further. In this case, the officers concerned were retired due to stress with £50,000 each and a full pension to come. So, neglect, minimum, that led to death, in a situation of statutory duty of care, had no criminal consequences for them.

Not only that – but this year – after 14 years, his body was discovered NOT to have been buried in 2000 when the family held the funeral! Rather, a 77 year old Nigerian woman had been buried in his place, apparently due to a mortuary mix-up! The mortuary staff concerned have moved to Australia and New Zealand, the funeral directors, paid £2200 for hearses and preparing the body(!), have since gone out of business.

It’s a horrific story!

The speeches were very moving today. No country is without its troubles, but the trials these families have gone through, the deaths, cover ups, police lies, media collusion, IPCC investigations refusing to investigate properly or at all, underscore a state where the police can kill someone and get away with it. As one police officer was reported to have said “Nothing will happen to me.”

333 deaths in custody since 1998.

No officer found guilty for 42 years.

United Friends and Family Campaign