Former UK citizen Mahdi Hashi jailed for 9 years for supporting al Shabaab

Mahdi Hashi

Former British citizen Mahdi Hashi has been sentenced to nine years in prison in the US for supporting the Somali al Shabaab organisation, three years after being secretly taken to the US from a Djibouti jail.

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism reports that Hashi, 26, who was stripped of his British citizenship in 2012 by Theresa May, has spent the past three years in solitary confinement in a New York prison. He pleaded guilty in May last year to conspiring to provide material support to al Shabaab (an al Qaeda affiliate) in Somalia several years earlier.

During sentencing U.S. District Judge John Gleeson said the facts were “complicated”, accepting in part Hashi’s position that he joined al Shabaab not to engage in violent attacks but because he thought it could restore peace to war-torn Somalia, according to Reuters.

“I believe you believe this organisation you joined was dramatically different than what you thought or hoped it would be,” he said.

Somali-born Hashi arrived in the UK with his family as a five-year-old in 1994 after they fled the civil war in their native Somalia and claimed asylum. At the age of 14, he became a British citizen.

Hashi claimed he was “harassed” by British intelligence agencies and he and several others went public, telling the Independent in 2009 they were being pressured into spying for MI5. Shortly after this he travelled to Somalia to care for an unwell grandmother, according to his own account.

By June 2012 Hashi was still living in Somalia, now married and with a son, when his parents called to tell him a letter had arrived containing a deprivation order from the home secretary. The letter stated his British citizenship was being removed on grounds he was “involved in Islamist extremism”.

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Theresa May stripped Hashi of his citizenship
Theresa May stripped Hashi of his citizenship

Hashi claimed he then left Somalia as there was no British embassy there from which he could launch an appeal, which under the law he had to do within 28 days. That summer he travelled to Djibouti, where he was detained by the authorities.

In court documents filed in their US case, the three later alleged they had been threatened with sexual abuse and torture while imprisoned in Djibouti.

Documents filed in relation to Hashi’s case by his US attorney, Mark Demarco, stated Hashi was detained “in a secret Djiboutian facility under extremely harsh conditions” and was subjected to “illegal interrogation” by US intelligence officials.

This “illegal interrogation” was just months after Theresa May had stripped him of his British citizenship. While Hashi said he was trying to get to Saudi Arabia to lodge his appeal, the US government said he was on his way to Yemen when he was detained by authorities in Djibouti.

Hashi was held incommunicado for months, and it wasn’t until a fellow inmate was released and contacted his family that they found out where he was. The family contacted the British Foreign Office, which, according to Hashi’s father, told them his son was “no longer a British national, and as such has no right to receive Consular assistance”.

Reacting to the news Mahdi Hashi’s family said in a statement to CAGE: “We are thankful the judge tried to understand the context of the case in passing down his sentence. At the same time, it is sad to be rejoicing for a 9 year sentence, especially after all the abuses Mahdi had to go through.”

Saghir Hussain of HMA Solicitors, representing the family of Mahdi Hashi, said: “Issues remain over how and why British young men are taken from across the world for trial in New York. Mr Hashi’s appeal against the deprivation of his British citizenship will be heard in October at the Court of Appeal. I am restricted from saying anything about Mr Hashi’s case, due to the Special Administrative Measures imposed on him in prison.”

And Ibrahim Mohamoud, CAGE Communications Officer, said: “There remain a number of answered questions for both the British and American authorities to answer. What role did both play in colluding to deliberately render Hashi to a country he has never step foot in? This is serious example of outsourcing troubling cases across the Atlantic, by stripping Mahdi’s British citizenship. There needs to be real accountability of how and why a London care worker was kidnapped, tortured and renditioned across the global to face trial in a foreign court.”

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