Activist, Sairah Yassir, reflects on the detainment of Munir Farooqi after she attended a demonstration last Sunday outside HMP Wakefield, to demand accountability for his inadequate continuity of access to medical care.
Similar to the cases of the environmental campaigners who suffered significant violation as a consquence of police entrapment in the UK, Munir Farooqi alongside his family, too, have been subject to grave abuse of power and violation by the British authorities. Leading up to, during and after farcical convictions along with sentences in prison, wrongly accused and now fully exonerated, Harris Farooqi, son of framed Munir Farooqi, described his, his father’s and family’s ordeal as an exercise in “prison grooming”. “My father and I were groomed by the authorities for detainment. They [two undercover operatives who posed as converts to Islam] infiltrated our lives, built relationships and staged conversations so that they may find enough evidence to arrest us,” Harris revealed during his opening address to fellow campaigners rallying in support of Munir Farooqi. “There came a time where I was getting tired of the constant calls [from the undercover operatives] and I wouldn’t even answer my phone because I was sick of hearing them talk about going abroad to fight. I even told my Dad to keep his distance as something didn’t feel right but he just responded that they were as much his sons as I was.”
Approximately a year later, the “Counter Terrorism Unit” and its operatives had built a case based on gross assumptions and decontextualised soundbites, the Farooqi family home was raided and Munir alongside Harris Farooqi were taken in to custody. Harris was acquitted of involvement in the single count which affected him dating from September 8, 2011 he was subsequently released on a tag, though believes G4S attempted to defy his tag parole on a regular basis. Munir Farooqi however was convicted of five counts and four life sentences on a concurrent basis.
Withstanding the dubious and extremely weak gathering of “terrorism” related “evidence”, if one may refer to it as that, staff at HMP Wakefield continues to criminalise Munir Farooqi by inconsistent access to much needed medical attention, medicaments and diabetic friendly diet plans. This is in defiance of Mr. Farooqi’s legal representation contacting HMP Wakefield on January 20th, 2015 to inform them of the impact their neglect is having on Mr. Farooqi’s mental and physical well-being. In the letter, Mr Pook states: “I understand that HMP Wakefield have delayed my client’s appointment at a Wakefield Community Hospital and the health care experts have advised my client that if he does not attend […] the dates set for treatment then the treatment will have little to no effect. Resulting in the ongoing loss of vision.” Concluding that: “The result of missing his appointments causes my client intense physical and mental suffering, the effect being so degrading that it may amount to inhuman treatment towards my client” and “[…] any delay on his accessing health care may engage my client’s rights as enshrined within the European Convention of Human Rights namely Article 3 Prevention of Torture.”
It is owing to these ongoing injustices that the Free Munir Farooqi campaign had called for pro-justice campaigners to attend the peaceful protest outside HMP Wakefield. Supporters originating from various backgrounds and cities nationwide, such as a gentleman from Bradford, mentioned the need to support and be aware of such campaigns so as to prevent these unfortunate and unjust cases from ever occurring again.
Though police officers approached peaceful protesters on numerous occasions as what some campaigners believed to be for intimidation and provocation purposes, the protest continued with much success offering campaigners a detailed insight into Mr. Farooqi and Harris Farooqi’s case, along with motivational speakers from different walks of life. The speakers detailed their time spent with Mr. Farooqi and/or their motivations underlying why such actions are critical in ensuring justice for him. Several anecdotes shared by speakers particularly seemed to recall fond memories of Mr Munir Farooqi involving his time spent on an aid convoy to Gaza.
Another included the fact that he was more concerned about supporters getting ill from the rain during the last demonstration than he was of them speaking out against what is widely believed to be HMP Wakefield’s unjust behaviour towards him once again last year. And last, but certainly not least, the fact that his concern to engage and change negative perceptions of Islam and Muslims after 9/11 in his local community eventually led him and his family to be the targets of a most malicious campaign by the Greater Manchester Police and wider British authorities. Further illustrating the concerning and far reaching scope that the “preventing violent extremism” initiative has, and will continue to have on average British citizens until it is abandoned. The British authorities must desist from monitoring and intellectually probing British Muslim citizens.
Many British Muslims may well argue that some have been misguided due to the silencing and fear of repercussion from the authorities of discussing contentious issues facing Muslims in the UK and abroad. British Muslims have a right to agency in the shape of freedom of speech and freedom of thought similar to any other cross section in British society and the current denial of these rights continue to foster a feeling of estrangement along with disaffection due to the ongoing “othering” of British Muslims.
The peaceful protest concluded with a spontaneous call, whose daughter Zulaikha requested him to share his thanks and prayers, though was not aware that his call was being put through a PA system. His daughter Zulaikha Farooqi concluded, “[this] was in his selfless nature to do so.” Speakers urged campaigners to contact the governor of HMP Wakefield to stop this discriminative behaviour towards Mr. Farooqi.
Furthermore, though Parliament is in recess, to sign the online petition, send correspondence to local councillors, raise awareness in verbatim and via the website along with social media networks such as facebook and twitter. Though this demonstration aimed to highlight the deprivation of adequate health care for Mr. Farooqi, the Farooqi family and supporters are calling on all to join and engage in the wider campaign to bring justice for Munir Farooqi. In the words of CAGE representative, Cerie Kaleem Bullivant, “it is important that we follow the website and campaign so that we know how to defend the [Farooqi] family’s and our own rights because at the moment, the boot is coming down on us and we need to stand out against injustice and unite, otherwise, they are going to come for all of us.”