Monday Jan 14, 201312:44 PM GMT
UK arrest of Sheikh Raed 'outrageous'
Sun Jul 3, 2011 10:2AM
Interview with Farouq Bajwa, Sheikh Salah's lawyer, London
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Sheikh Raed Salah, the leader of the Islamic Movement in Palestine, has been arrested in London on charges that he had entered Britain in spite of a travel ban.

Press TV's George Galloway interviews the Sheikh Raed's lawyer Farouq Bajwa to discuss the facts surrounding his arrest. Following is a transcript of the interview.

Press TV: Why is the Sheikh able to speak freely in his own country, but not here in Britain?

Bajwa: It's a very good question and I'm afraid I don't know the answer to that one, I can only speculate that the British government in this instance is trying to be more careful about Israel's interests than Israel is itself.

Press TV: This man is one of the more important figures in the entire Muslim world - I don't think I'm exaggerating that in terms of his political importance and where he stands. This is a provocation by the condemned coalition government to the Muslim world two billion strong, isn't it?

Bajwa: It just doesn't make sense either legally or politically. Legally if he was not supposed to be in the UK, then it would have made much more sense to have said to him politely when they went to visit him on Tuesday at 11pm at his hotel that Sheikh Raed you shouldn't be in the UK if you don't mind, leave as planned and we will ask the police just to follow you for the next few days to make sure you leave.

Politically what they've done is the worst of both worlds where they've managed to alienate both the Israelis probably by letting him in here, making sure he attended a few public meetings, and then picking him up and alienating all the people who were looking forward to meeting him and hearing him.

Press TV: Is this a blunder by the government - did they fail to tell the immigration authorities that they shouldn't let him in or was it a blunder by the immigration authorities that led to his entry? Or is this being made up after the event - is the subject really about pro-Israeli pressure on the British government?

Bajwa: From what I've been able to work out since then it appears that three or four days before Sheikh Raed arrived the Home Secretary made a decision to exclude him.

For some reason that decision never got passed onto the UK Border Agency, which meant that when he came to Heathrow, according to people who were with him and I've managed to speak to two people who were accompanying him, they said he was treated with great courtesy and politeness by the UK Border Agency at Heathrow - the immigration officials wished him a good trip, stamped his passport and waved him through with a minimum of fuss.

So he was really startled to hear a few days later that somehow the British government didn't want him here because he had absolutely no inclination or warning of this. So I do think that this has been a mess somewhere along the line and a big embarrassment to the Home Secretary who has now ordered an investigation as to what went wrong.

Press TV: As his lawyer, what are you going to do about this - what can you do about it?

Bajwa: He has applied for bail and what we're hoping to do is to get him out as soon as possible so at least he's not banged up because at the moment...

Press TV: Is he actually in a cell?

Bajwa: He's actually being held in a detention center with what the Daily Mail calls failed asylum seekers. And this is a man who's actually done nothing wrong.

He didn't mislead anyone; he didn't come here under false pretences; he came under his passport, his name, arrived at Heathrow on a well-publicized visit. So, why he's in custody I just don't know.

The least the British government could have done as a matter of courtesy is, if they had this order, was to say please stick to an agreed schedule or stay under some sort of house arrest at worst. But to put him in a cell is really pretty outrageous.

Press TV: And is this just for things that he has said? He hasn't done anything wrong; he's free to speak publicly in what they call Israel any day of the week.

Bajwa: As you said he's a very important figure. One day we know there has to be an Arab Israeli solution and I suspect that Sheikh Raed Salah is going to be a very important part of that. He is the leader of the largest Arab movement in Israel; he's popular, well regarded, well respected not just in Palestine, but throughout the Arab and Muslim world. To treat him like this in England is bad politics and bad law.

Press TV: I suppose the supporters of Israel are celebrating this as rather a coup?

Bajwa: They are. There have been some gleeful headlines from all the usual suspects saying he's been banged up rightly, etc, but I don't think this is any sort of a victory for the right wing media in a sense because this is backfiring politically.

Sheikh Raed, I think genuinely, to fair-minded people, is looking like a victim where everybody accepts that he never misled anyone; he was never informed of being barred before arrival and now suddenly through no fault of his own he finds himself in custody.

Press TV: What is the next stage?

Bajwa: The next stage is that hopefully he'll be bailed; after that he has the right of appeal. Now this is where it gets embarrassing for the British government.

Had he not been allowed in the UK - if they had managed to stop him at Tel Aviv or even turned him around at Heathrow, he may not have had the right of appeal. Now that he's here he has the right of appeal in front of an immigration special tribunal next week sometime, which will have to consider whether the Secretary's decision to bar him or place him on this list of excluded people was in fact lawful.

And the rather kafkaesque element to all of this is that so far we are his lawyers and he has no idea in fact why he is on this list.

Press TV: He may just decide of course that he's had enough of Britain and tell us to all get lost, which would be a loss I think us (in England) and certainly bad for British business at least around the world, don't you think?

Bajwa: I think so, but at the moment his instruction are that he wants to leave on his terms when he's cleared his name. He is determined to do that.

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