- Created: Wednesday, 26 August 2015 13:57
- Written by FRFI
On 21 May 2015, 38-year-old Anis Sardar from Wembley, north London, was convicted of the murder of a US soldier in Iraq in 2007 and sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum of 38 years. He was the first person to be sentenced in a British court for participating in the violent turmoil which followed the US and British invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003. His friends and family in London say that Anis has been wrongly convicted and have set up the Justice4Anis campaign. NAFISA from the campaign writes here for FRFI.
Anis was born and grew up in London. In 1997, having developed an interest in Arabic, he went to Syria, then a peaceful country and a popular destination for learning the language. He found the study difficult but after several trips began a degree at Fatih Al Islami University, and was there in 2003, when the US and British forces invaded Iraq.
Images of destruction and carnage were constantly in the news and the second siege of Fallujah resulted in a massive influx of Iraqi refugees into Syria. Anis saw society around him rapidly change and heard distressing stories from people escaping the war. In 2005, Ibrahim Al Jaffari, a Shi’a propagandist, was elected as Iraqi Prime Minister. He appointed Bayan Jabr, who was the Commander of the Badr Brigade Shi’a militia, as Minister of Interior, and Jabr went on to run secret prisons where Sunnis were imprisoned and tortured.
Anis met Abu Muhammad, who had fled Iraq with his wife and children, and they became friends. Abu Muhammad decided to return to Iraq and help his parents to escape the country. When Anis learnt of this, he insisted on helping him, and they left for Iraq in 2005 with medical supplies. Anis stayed in Iraq for less than six months, serving as a night watchman, warning locals of approaching militia.
One afternoon Anis accompanied Abu Muhammad to visit a friend in Shula, where he saw villagers working on some objects he didn’t recognise. They explained that as they had no finances, manpower, or weapons to defend themselves against the militia, building bombs and placing them around their village was their only means of protecting themselves from the constant attacks. Anis was asked to help tape two devices, which he did as he couldn’t see anything wrong with helping the villagers to defend their families from militia who were constantly massacring them simply because they were Sunni.
Eventually, the brutality of the conflict became too much for Anis and he returned to Syria; however he had been affected too deeply by his experiences, so abandoned his studies and went home to London.
On his return he qualified and worked as a black cab driver, married and started a family. He was arrested seven years later in relation to a bomb which had killed a US soldier. This bomb did not have Anis’ fingerprints on it but the case against him was that those which he had touched and this one were all from the same batch. There was no evidence that this was the case but he was found guilty on the basis of an assumption.
Anis has been open about his experiences and has hidden nothing. However, the judge opened up the trial by refusing to give the jury the context of the Iraq war. Stripped of context, stripped of motives, Anis was sufficiently dehumanised. When you dehumanise someone, it doesn’t matter so much what you do to the person.
The trial was clearly one-sided, and throughout Anis was treated as guilty until proven innocent. From the start it was clear what direction the case was going to go in, as immunity was granted to prosecution witnesses but denied to the Iraqi witnesses speaking in Anis’ defence. Then, Anis was labelled as an ‘extremist’ for opposing the Iraq war. The word ‘extremist’ is too often levelled at Muslims, and the way the judge used it would put hundreds and thousands, if not millions, of Muslims and non-Muslims alike into this category.
We are now fighting for equality and a fair trial. For more information go to justice4anis.com or Facebook Justice4Anis. Please write to Anis Sardar (A1582DH), HMP Belmarsh, Western Way, London SE28 0EB.
FRFI 246 August/September2015