Mahdi Hashi is a 23 year old British Somali who is awaiting a high-profile terrorism trial in the United States. He stands accused of aiding and abetting the al-Shabaab group in Somalia which is linked to al-Qaeda.
In 2012 Hashi’s family became worried when their son, who’d gone to Somalia to get married, disappeared from view. Later it emerged that he’d been detained and allegedly tortured in neighbouring Djibouti by the CIA before being rendered to the United States. In the meantime he was stripped of his British citizenship.
Hashi was a community worker and student who worked with Somali youths in London. His lawyers say that because of this he was targeted by the security services who wanted him to spy for them, specifically to try and get his peer group to talk about jihad. When he refused he was allegedly threatened with “consequences.”
Human rights campaigners believe that Mahdi Hashi was rendered to the United States because no European country would have convicted him because of a lack of evidence.
And despite the fact that Hashi was brought up in the UK, the British government has seemingly washed its hands of him. On the face of it has a lot of explaining to do. For example, what role did it play, if any, in getting him kidnapped, held in secret detention and renditionned to the US? But because they have stripped him of his citizenship they can avoid answering these embarrasing questions.
In the following interview Mahdi Hashi’s father, Mohamed Hashi, discusses his son’s extraordinary case:
Can you tell us a little bit about Mahdi?
Mahdi was a very polite boy who helped the community, he never hurt anybody. His schoolmates used to call him a comedian. He was into football and he was a happy boy who made friends easily. He was a good son to me and didn’t give me any problems.
He never got involved in gangs like other boys his age. He was a practicing Muslim but not an extremist. But he had influence over the other boys, he was well-known and respected and I think the security services took advantage of that. That’s why they targeted him.
How did he react when MI5 asked him to spy for them?
When he was asked to be an informer he was shocked. I think at the time there was a lot of trouble in Somali and the Islamic Courts movement were calling on Somalis to fight the foreign invaders so the British government got worried that British Somalis might go over there and fight and be radicalized.
So they needed informers in the British Somali community. They threatened Mahdi that if he didn’t work for them he would “face the consequences.” And they followed him all the time and harassed him. Eventually he left the UK for Somalia to find peace and he got married and had a child.
If Britain faces a terror threat doesn’t it have the right to use all means to protect national security?
Britain does have the right to protect its national security and I suppose they will try and recruit spies, but this can’t be forced, it has to be a voluntary thing. They shouldn’t put pressure on people and follow them and threaten them.
This is just creating hatred. The youth are losing trust in the authorities because they are being forced to do things they don’t want to do.
Don’t the authorities have the right to be suspicious of Somalis travelling back to their homeland?
They have to understand that Somalia is changing and it is getting more peaceful now. People want to travel back there to see their families, it doesn’t mean they want to join al-Shabaab, they just want to see their mother country.
Mahdi is accused of financially helping al-Shabaab, what are your thoughts on this?
Mahdi didn’t have any money, I was supporting him. So what financial help could he give to al-Shabaab? Perhaps he might have met someone who was involved in this but this is pure guilt by association.
Why did he end up in Djibouti?
He had to leave Somalia because the British government revoked his citizenship and there was no British embassy in Somalia so he had to travel to the nearest country where there was one to ask questions.
We couldn’t believe it when they took away his passport. He’s done nothing wrong but it was just a way of washing their hands of him and letting the Americans pick him up and put him on trial.
How is Mahdi now?
I spoke to him recently on the phone from his prison in the USA. He’s fine and he’s steadfast and he trusts in Allah but of course he is uncertain about his future.
I would prefer that he is brought back here to the UK to face trail. He was captured in Africa and not on the battlefield, he was a British citizen and he has never done anything against America so why is he being tried in America? His fate is now in Allah’s hands.