Letters / FRFI 230 Dec 2012/Jan 2013

FRFI 230 December 2012/January 2013

An Israeli ‘welcome’

Palestine is a dirty word in Israel as we who joined the ‘Welcome to Palestine Initiative 2012’ found to our cost.

Originally there had been 36 of us, but 22 activists were told they would not be allowed on the Israeli plane. On arrival at Tel Aviv airport, the rest of us presented our passports and were asked our destination. When we replied ‘Palestine’, we were quickly sidelined. My carer and I soon found ourselves locked in the back of an armoured truck with two goons with Kalashnikovs across their laps sat on a box of ammunition with a sticker of a sniper above their heads.

I am registered partially sighted and have the use of a symbol cane, not for me to get around but to simply indicate I have a problem.

We spent the next five days in jail and were then deported. Since the Palestinian prisoners were on hunger strike at the time we decided to join them but as the food was not very good this did not seem a problem.

After a few days we had a visit from Israeli robocops in full riot gear. They pounded down the corridor rattling the bars with the batons. Although what they thought the Palestinian hunger strikers were going to do in response after a couple of months without food we really did not know.

Finally after five days we were brought out onto the runway where our flight home was waiting only for the pilot to say he would only take two of us. However, the Israelis threatened to arrest him and impound the aeroplane which would only be released on payment of a fine of 12,000 shekels, and so he backed down. Despite this, the cabin crew were very supportive and seemed very sympathetic to our ordeal.

We then flew back to Manchester to a welcome from friends and supporters. However, the airport authorities made us wait until passengers hostile to our cause were let through. It seemed that there had been some collusion with the Israelis. So it seems that Palestine is a dirty word in both Israel and Britain.

Robert Redford

Lincoln


 

Peter Hakala – free at long last

I thank you all from the bottom of my heart for supporting my fight for freedom. Do not ever give in or give up fighting for all the innocent and wrongly convicted, I will always salute and honour you all in your ongoing work.

In prison there are many wrongfully convicted people. In my case a listed police informer was sent back to Australia before giving court evidence. There is no forensic evidence against me. So, yes, I am angry. I am angry because I did not manage to say goodbye and farewell to my loving parents when they died. I am angry for spending over 26 long and painful years in prison.

In October I was moved from Monster Mansions [HMP Wakefield] to Belmarsh and then handcuffed onto a flight from Gatwick – destination Helsinki, Finland, accompanied by four handpicked UKBA agents. I was handcuffed all the way, with one officer each side of me and the two others sitting side by side, and received no food or drink.

When we touched down in Helsinki my guards were surprised as there were no authorities there to meet them. Finally, a very tall young pistol-carrying airport policeman came over and wanted to know who they were and from where. My escorts gave the Finnish airport police the UKBA paper work. But the Finnish police wanted more clarification as to why a native of Finland had been flown out from England in irons, having served over 26 years in prison there, and who hadn’t done anything in Finland and wasn’t wanted there for anything.

The Finnish airport policeman finally contacted Helsinki police who have similar authority to Scotland Yard. Then he turned to the leader of my escort and ordered him to remove my handcuffs. Two Helsinki policemen then arrived and told me I was a free person and at liberty to travel wherever I wished in my native Finland. So I was finally free from the evil English system, whose representatives now left with their tails between their legs.

I was only given £26.50. I slept at Helsinki airport that night with four bags of luggage. Next day, some different policemen took me to a temporary destination from where I moved to my present location.

Inside English prisons I still have good friends who are honest and loyal; they remain very near to my heart. My friend Kevan T was bullied and intimidated at Frankland when I was there, and because I kept supporting Kevan the screws turned against me in Monster Mansion.

I want to say to the many whom I call friends, that I will contact you all in due course: Paul F, Kev T, Danny C etc. And I say to you all – be survivors and stay strong.

I salute FRFI for your past, present and future support. Please continue to send the FRFI paper.

Peter Hakala

Lahti, Finland

Peter Hakala is a Finnish citizen, arrested in Britain in 1986 and charged with rape. After a first jury could not reach a verdict, he was convicted at a second trial and sentenced to life imprisonment, with a minimum tariff of ten years. He has always protested his innocence. In October, under the terms of the ‘Tariff Expired Removal Scheme’ for foreign national prisoners, brought in as part of the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders 2012, Peter was put on a plane under armed guard and dumped in Finland.


 

Atos’s oppressive regime

After filling out a capability for work questionnaire sent by the Department for Work and Pensions, I was summoned to attend for a medical by Atos, the company employed by the DWP to get you off disability benefits onto lower benefits, and ultimately back to work irrespective of your medical condition. In the waiting room, one woman let out a scream and told the reception desk, ‘I can’t do this, I’m leaving’, only to be told if she left before her medical her benefits would be stopped that day. She bolted for the door anyway. My name was called and I was escorted to a side room. The medical started with a mental health questionnaire – dozens of questions I mostly didn’t know the answer to, so I had to make it up. Then a physical test – stand up, hands above head, touch your toes, walk down the corridor...Back into the room to have my chest, back, feet and hands examined. At this point I asked ‘Are you a doctor?’ He replied ‘I am a health care professional’. He seemed totally uninterested in my condition, asking hardly any questions. Everything I said was typed into a computer, but I have no idea what he wrote.

I feel under assault by Atos and its employees but I am writing this to let your readers know that if they are called to an Atos centre they should attend otherwise they will stop your benefits. But remember that if the decision goes against you, the percentage of people winning on appeal against Atos is high. The ruling class is determined to make the working class and the poor pay the most as it implements its savage cuts.

Terry

Manchester


 

Abortion bans kill

The death of Indian dentist Savita Halappanavar, refused a life-saving termination by doctors at an Irish hospital, was the shocking but inevitable consequence of laws restricting women’s right to abortion.

Savita was admitted to University Hospital, Galway already gravely ill, and begged doctors to terminate her 17-week pregnancy. They refused, on the basis that there was still a faint foetal heartbeat, telling her ‘This is a Catholic country’. She died in agony four days later from blood poisoning following a miscarriage. On 14 October, 10,000 people demonstrated in Dublin against the country’s restrictive abortion laws. There were also mass demonstrations in India, accusing Ireland of murdering women.

Ireland has a near-total ban on abortion in any circumstances, including rape, being under 16, or as in this case, where there is a threat to the mother’s life. The situation is only slightly less restrictive in the north of Ireland, the only part of the UK where the 1967 Abortion Act does not apply.

Several thousand women every year are forced to make the journey to England for terminations, but not everyone can afford it. The Abortion Support Network, which issues grants to Irish women seeking terminations abroad, told The Guardian that in the last three years the women it has helped included 19 rape victims, 21 with severe health problems and 21 girls under 16. A further six, they said, had attempted suicide in the past.

An ‘inquiry’ has been set up into why Savita Halappanavar died and whether her death was preventable. But the answer is simple: she died because she was denied the termination she asked for. As Mara Clarke, director of the Abortion Support Network, put it:

‘I am not an expert on the abortion law in Ireland but I am an expert on what happens to women when abortion access is restricted. The avoidable, disgusting, tragic, heartbreaking story of Savita Halappanavar is what happens...Let’s stop talking about whether or not abortion is right or wrong. When you ban abortion, you change it from being an issue of morality to an issue of class’.

Cat Wiener

South London


 

Errors on Syria

In your article Syria: covert intervention and the failure of the British left (FRFI 229 October/ November 2012), you state in the final paragraph that Assad and the Syrian government ‘was complicit with the suffering of the Palestinian people, supported the imperialist invasion of Iraq and participated in the US-led rendition programme’.

The point on Palestine is open to debate and although I agree with you overall on this, Syria deserves some credit at least comparatively with regards to other countries in the region considering refugees and its opposition to Israel etc.

However, Syria didn’t support the imperialist invasion of Iraq in 2003, which this article states. It had troops in the coalition of the first Gulf War but strongly opposed the 2003 occupation of Iraq. Syrian ambassador Mikhail Wehbe said he believed that the evidence presented by the US to the Security Council on Iraq’s weapons had been fabricated and that weapons of mass destruction were a mere pretext for a war motivated by the interests of Israel and the US companies that hoped to profit from post-war reconstruction contracts. Pretty damning condemnation!!

I do agree with the majority of the article, although I think Libya needed much more mention as the left failed miserably on Libya and allowed racist lynching and mass executions across the country and even allowed for the flattening of Sirte and Bani Walid all in the name of its romantic notions of revolution. But on the whole, I agree with a lot of what the article is saying.

However, I had to bring this up as it’s misinformed and misleading.

Ryan O’Neill

Trevor Rayne replies:

In the article referred to, the author states:?‘The repressive government of Assad and the Ba’athists...supported the imperialist invasion of Iraq’. The confusion occurs because while Syria did oppose the 2003 invasion of Iraq, in 1991 it was the first Arab country to condemn Iraq’s occupation of Kuwait and it contributed 20,000 troops to the Coalition forces’ invasion of Iraq in that year.


 

Radiant

I hope that you are all in salubrious health and radiant in revolutionary communist optimism in these most advantageous times of permanent capitalist-imperialist crisis.

I recently read your dynamic and excellent paper and really desire to be included on any list you have for free subscriptions for prisoners.

Joe Valentine

Pelican Bay state prison, US

 

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