Habib still fighting for justice

August 16, 2008

Mamdouh Habib, who was tortured in Egypt then detained in the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay for three-and-a-half years before being released in February 2005 without charge, has faced continal harassment and persecution since his return to Australia.

In the latest charade aimed at further undermining his integrity and his standing in the community, Habib will appear at the Ryde Court House on August 18 after a magistrate found him guilty on July 28 of "offensive behaviour". The charge could result in a criminal conviction.

Habib's family have had little peace since his release. In February 2005, their home was broken into twice and files taken. The following month, Habib and his wife Maha were waiting at traffic lights when a car pulled out next to them and a man with a knife threatened to kill them. In August 2005, they were walking in a park near their home when three men with hoods over their heads hit Habib on the head and attacked him with a knife. The police did not pursue any of these cases.

Then in March 2006, in an incident in Guildford where Habib and his son were bystanders, police pushed them into a police wagon and took them to the Parramatta police station, where they were kept all night and treated as suspects. Their car and personal effects were taken and when they were returned three days later, Habib alleges that hundreds of dollars were missing.

In May 2007, Habib was talking to a youth seated nearby at a local eatery. A police officer mistakenly assumed Habib was talking to him, and after an exchange of words Habib was charged with offensive language. Closed-circuit TV footage of the incident reveals no abusive behaviour or language by Habib.

Two months later, a police officer outside Bankstown Court House accused Habib of being a "terrorist". A letter from Superintendent Ray King of Fairfield Local Area Command, dated January 23, 2008, stated that the officer concerned acted unprofessionally and had since been counselled. The letter also provided an apology for the incident.

The hypocrisy of the system is exposed when acknowledged verbal abuse by a police officer warrants nothing further than the provision of a written apology, while an unfounded claim of "verbal abuse" against a police officer warrants the laying of charges, a court hearing and a criminal conviction against Habib.

Every time Habib and his family seek justice they have encountered systemic racism and bigotry.

The Canterbury-Bankstown Peace Group is planning a protest outside the court hearing in support of civil liberties and to demand an end to police harassment and justice and compensation for the Habibs.

[For more information, phone Raul on 0403 037 376.]

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