J7 Exclusive: Interview with political prisoner Hussain al-Samamra
Hussain Al-Samamra is a Palestinian who sought political asylum in the UK eight years ago after suffering persecution and torture as a political prisoner in Jordan. He had settled into this country and was working legally, happily married and starting a family when his life was turned upside down in 2006. Having previously been arrested and released after five days in 2004 with no charge, Hussain was arrested once more in July 2006 after being asked to visit the police station regarding a crime that he himself had reported to the police. He was imprisoned for 2 years with no charge and no access to any of the evidence against him.
When he was finally released from jail, he was not allowed to return to his home, but was instead moved to an unfamiliar area with few ethnic minorities, where he suffered violent racial abuse. After being attacked on the street and taken to hospital, Hussain requested a move to avoid future such attacks. The Home Office moved Hussain to a completely different city, leaving his wife and child to make their own travel arrangements, into accommodation quite unfit for human habitation. This is where he and his family currently reside.
In this exclusive interview with J7, Hussain describes the devastating effect that his treatment at the hands of the supposedly democratic British state has had on his own life and the lives of those around him.
[Note: There may be grammatical errors in some of the responses but J7 did not want to change any of Hussain's words.]
|[ Picture above shows a meticulous Andalucian mosque made of matchsticks which took Hussain al-Samamra months to build, as exhibited at CAPTIVATED: The Art of the Interned ]|
When did you come to the UK and what had happened in Jordan to make you seek political asylum?
I am a Palestinian. I came to the UK on 11th May 2001. In Jordan I was arrested in July 1997 for associating with a group called ''Baya't al imam''. This group is an Islamic group – an anti Jordanian government group.
Can you describe your life in the UK? Do you feel you had established a good life here?
My life in the UK was a good life before I got arrested twice. The first time was in 2004, the second time was on July 2006. 5 days after my first child was born. I think I had established a good life. I was a working man since 2001 until I was arrested. I got married. My wife and I were planning to have kids and be a happy family just like everyone else all over the world. I even started my own business. I paid my tax and national insurance contributions. Just 3 months after I started my business I got arrested again.
Can you describe the circumstances surrounding your arrests?
The circumstances were really bad enough to destroy a family who had just started their life with their new born baby. The baby we were waiting for. Setting up my new business had cost all my saving for five years of working very hard.
What reason were you given for your arrests?
The only reason I was given for my arrests was that my asylum case has been refused and I was a threat to a national security because of that I have to be deported to the country where I had fled from.
What do you think are the real reason for your arrests?
In the beginning I did not know what was the real reason behind my arrests but after I got into the prison, which was Long Lartin prison in an isolated unit I found 20 people who were arrested a year before me, all of them are from north African countries. Except one he is a Palestinian, Jordanian nationality. Because of this I think the government wanted to make their case stronger.
How many times were you questioned or allowed to make a statement regarding the circumstances of your arrests?
I have never been questioned regarding my arrests and never been asked to make a statement.
Can you describe the experience of being in prison, knowing that you were effectively living as a criminal despite being innocent in the eyes of British law?
My experience was very bad experience about being arrested in the first place for no crime I have committed. Secondly, being in the prison and treated as a criminal by officers who did not make any difference between a criminal or someone who never done any crime to be in the prison.
When you were made aware that your case would not be heard in an open court, but instead, in a secret (SIAC) court?
The first time in my life I heard about that my case is not going to be in an open court, but in a secret court called SIAC was after I get inside the prison and stayed with another 20 people whose cases were similar to my case.
Can you describe any evidence you have seen regarding the home office's case against you?
I can't describe no evidence, because I wasn't given no evidence to see. Every thing was in “closed”. Not me, not my solicitor, nor anyone who was defending me was allowed to see any evidence.
What were your feelings when you realised you would not have the opportunity to have charges put to you in a manner in which you could directly answer them and defend yourself?
My feelings were very bad. I felt that I was in one of the third world countries and under a dictatorship government because in my knowledge these kind of things only can happen in countries like Jordan or even Zimbabwe.
How did your situation affect your family whilst you were in prison and now whilst you live under a control order?
I am not under a control order. I am held on immigration bail which is a hundred times worse than a control order – far more restrictive. My situation has affected my family really badly, financially, physically and psychologically. I am only allowed out of my house for 5 hours a day in a restricted area. There are so many restrictions on me that I cannot list them here.
It was horrendous when I was in the prison, but now after been released and put under immigration bail conditions; life is getting worse and even more stressful. I can not take my daughter outside any time I want as any normal father can. I can not go out with my wife or even take her to a doctor or a hospital because I am not allowed to. In the same time I can not let my wife go out alone because the Home Office accommodated us in a very racist area. This meant that my wife and my daughter became prisoners with me for no crime we commit. My wife was racially abused on the street and she was terrified. Once this happened when I was with her and I tackled the racists and got hit on the head with a stun gun and ended up in hospital.
How does being under immigration bail affect your everyday life?
Living under immigration bail is like putting you in a cell with devils. It is like a bad dream without end. It makes me sometimes think life is worth nothing and means nothing. Life under these conditions is worse than life in a prison because in the prison you are allowed to go to education, to the gym, go to the library, to a doctor but on the outside you are not allowed to do anything I have mentioned unless you get a permission from the home office and this takes days or weeks, sometimes they refuse to give me a permission. When my father who I had not seen for 12 years came to visit me from Palestine he was not allowed to enter my house until he was vetted by the Home Office. When he arrived a stranger had to meet him at the airport and accommodate him for a week in another part of England before he could even visit my home and meet me and my family. He was very upset and cried a lot. He was shocked at his treatment in a country he thought upheld human rights. His time with me was restricted by the restrictions placed on me and he left very sad. When he arrived back home and he phoned me and said he felt that he had just been let out of prison.
You are fighting deportation back to a country where you had previously been tortured - if the deportation goes ahead, what do you believe will happen to you and your family?
It will be a disaster for me to be deported to Jordan and I will be tortured if not killed under torture because of two reasons. First reason because I fled the country running away from where I was wanted. Second reason because of the untrue information passed to the Jordanian authorities from the UK government. For my family they will really face a hard life if they are going to let them into Jordan especially because my wife is not a Jordanian citizen. I don't know what will happen to my wife and daughter. Can you imagine the nightmare of my situation?
Do you feel enough people in this country are doing anything about the situation?
No, I do not feel that there is enough people doing anything about the situation but in the same time I think that people in UK do not know anything about my situation or the others who are in the same situation as I am, simply because the government is trying really hard to keep everything in secret and unpublished.
There are a few supportive people who are aware of my situation and who try their best to help me. One is an English lady who went through Home Office vetting with her husband and children. Even her 12 year old daughter went through Home Office vetting to enter my house. She is a very special lady. I have also had great support from a lady from the Peace & Justice Organisation. HHUGS has also tried to help my wife and we appreciate all that is done for us. My main support comes from an honourable friend who stood by me from the beginning and is still standing by me. He is a special person to me. I will never be able to repay him for his kindness.
My message to the British public to try to not believe the media or what is written in the news paper about Muslims and to try to find out the truth and take a stand because I am with other 20 people with our families and are suffering day and night every minute, every second. Our children are isolated from other children for no crime I committed and I believe that the others are the same. And all what I am asking for is justice. And I am willing to stand in an open court as any human being in this country and if they found me guilty of any crime or any harm I have done to anyone, I will accept what ever the court decide. But I am an innocent man who was locked up in the prison for 2 years without accusing me of any crime without a fair trial.
J7 wishes to thank Hussain al-Samamra for the courage and bravery required to participate in this interview as his political persecution continues at the hands of the British State under the guise of supposed 'anti-terrorism'.