By Stephen Robson
LONDON — More than 80 Iraqis are being held in prisons or army prisoner of war camps, without charges being laid, and facing possible deportation.
Home secretary Kenneth Baker gave the orders to imprison and then deport 88 Palestinians and Iraqis at the outbreak of the war on the grounds of alleged threat to national security.
Thirty-five Iraqis are held as PoWs at the Rollestone camp on the Salisbury plain in bare huts and are denied access to their families. Six had been released by mid-February after appeals to a Home Office tribunal. the rest are being held in prisons around Great Britain.
With the government relying on MI5 for its impeccable information, a number of the imprisoned were clearly cases of mistaken identity or were seized because of out-of-date information.
There appear to be five pretexts for the arrests:
- supporters of Saddam Hussein. Even the Home Office admitted that it thought most of what it described as "Baathist thugs" were among the 80 Arabs who had left the country voluntarily since the start of the crisis. Information provided by the internees suggests that only a small number consider themselves supporters of Saddam.
- having relatives in alleged terrorist groups. Hence the arrest of computer salesperson Ali al-Saleh, who has lived in Britain for 20 years. It is alleged that his wife's sister is married to a man whose uncle was Abu Nidal.
- being a good student. Having the misfortune to win an Iraqi government scholarship was also grounds for detention. This should make students in Australia enjoying those fabulously high TEAS incomes reassess their roles as agents of the Australian government.
- studying the wrong subject. This can indicate whether you are going to aid the Iraqi military. For example, opening an English-language bookshop in Baghdad clearly threatens the "new world order" (so also, presumably, does speaking more than one language), as one linguistic student in Scotland found out.
- visas. No, not overstaying visas, but applying for an extension. The logic here appears to be that anyone who knows and abides by British law must be a subversive.
Hiding behind a cloak of secrecy, the government has not had to justify its actions or apply any standards of natural justice.
Appeals can be made to a panel of "three eminent men", who in turn advise the home secretary. However, the panel members have no knowledge of charges against the detainees, if any. Furthermore, the internees are denied legal representation.