Letters/ FRFI 233 Jun/Jul 2013

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 233 June/July 2013

Benefits system failing the poor

I am a school-home support worker working in two London primary schools and can see that some of our families are being driven to despair by an increasingly punitive benefit system. Such families are far from being the ‘scrounging scum’ the tabloid press derides; rather, they are decent parents who worry about their children’s future and are stressed out about the lack of jobs available.

One parent I know who could not apply for the required 14 jobs a week was ‘sanctioned’ whilst on jobseeker’s allowance, leaving her with a mere £40 a week for both her and her son to live on. She was forced to go to an emergency food bank. Subsequently her housing benefit was stopped because she was no longer receiving the full jobseekers! This is a Catch-22 nightmare. She is in a state of panic worrying if she will be evicted for non-payment of rent and she has been asking how she will feed her child.

In fact the shocking fast growth in food banks throughout the UK just highlights the failure of the current benefits system: last year more than 350,000 desperate people needed emergency food and this number will escalate as a result of the government’s recent welfare reforms. I hope that some of the parents will take inspiration from the Counihan Sanchez Family Housing campaign. Thank you for providing coverage of this as it inspires people to get organised in their communities and fight back against attacks on their security.

Ayesha Taylor

North London


 

Prisoner seeks assistance with case against negligent solicitors – can you help?

I am writing in the hope you will be able to help me. The problem I have is to do with a civil court action in the Central London County Court.

In 2005 I acquired the services of a solicitors’ firm to represent me in my appeal. For two years this firm ignored me and then forgot my case. When I complained, they denied representing me and would not return any of my property.

I then complained to the Legal Complaints Service (LCS) and the solicitors were found guilty of three counts of negligence. However, the LCS was unable to order to the solicitors to return my property. I appealed to the Legal Ombudsman with the same result.

During the investigation the LCS did not collect all the evidence I told them existed. As a result, I had to collect it myself. I then commenced County Court civil proceedings in 2009. The firm maintained a stance of denial. In 2011 the defendant found all my legal papers and sent them to a new solicitor.

I am still trying to proceed with the case, even though the Central London County Court has lost all the papers on three occasions, and I have not heard anything from the court since 2011. This firm deliberately withheld my case papers for five years and has caused me immeasurable damage and stress, as well as incalculable damage through loss of evidence that can now never be obtained due to data protection time limits on preserving evidence.

I have been held in segregation for the last three and a half years and have developed serious health problems as a result of all this. Recently there have also been some new developments in my case and the CCRC is currently reviewing it. This should have been done seven years ago if this firm had done as promised.

I have spent thousands of hours and thousands of pounds borrowed from family to pursue this issue, and I keep meeting obstacles because, I believe, I am an unrepresented prisoner with little legal expertise. I have tried to seek alternative legal representation before, but I suspect that no solicitor is willing to sue another solicitor. I am writing to you in the hope that someone will be willing to help me. I do not even need a solicitor – just someone who is willing to write letters to the court, who can do some internet research for me and who has a bit of civil court knowledge.

George Black A3887AE

HMP Whitemoor, Longhill Road, March, Cambs PE15 0PR


 

The case against Pervez Musharraf

News of the former president of Pakistan, General Pervez Musharraf, being taken into custody is welcome. His time in office was full of allegations of abuses, which were confirmed in his memoir In the line of fire. His boasts include the illegal rendition of more than 500 people to the United States, many of whom were later found to be innocent but still languish in Guantanamo. He admitted to the many financial incentives the US offered for these people, as though renditioning of people was a legitimate way of increasing funds to Pakistan’s treasury. One could say it was a form of export.

It was Musharraf who gave the order in 2007 for the attack on the Red Mosque in Islamabad which left 1,300 people dead or missing, many of them women.

Musharraf also illegally detained judges, which is the basis for the current case against him. He did so after sacking the Chief Justice and imposing emergency rule. One of the motives for this was that the Chief Justice was questioning the government about the ‘disappearing’ of its citizens by various agencies – also, by the way, at the request of the US.

However, Pervez Musharraf could never have succeeded without the backing of the most influential institutions in Pakistan, the Army and the Intelligence Services.

The last and most significant atrocity committed by Musharraf is the torture that he has openly admitted. It was used not only against alleged ‘terrorists’ but also against survivors of the Red Mosque siege, lawyers, judges and ordinary citizens. It is applied wholesale in Pakistan – again encouraged by the US and other western countries.

Ironically, Musharraf returned to Pakistan under the pretext of bringing back ‘progress and security’ – yet the current lawlessness prevailing in the country is due to the decisions he and his successors made. And it is those very victims of his in the judiciary who could finally bring down justice on him!

Rangzieb Ahmed A6326AC

HMP Full Sutton, York, Y041 1PS


 

Was Chavez assassinated?

Thank you for the latest FRFI (April/May 2013). Superb stuff, especially on the Cuban elections and on Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez. I would add one detail – that many supporters of the Bolivarian Revolution are convinced that Chavez was assassinated, through the introduction of radiation by CIA agents. This was one of the 638 ways to kill Fidel Castro exposed in a Channel 4 documentary a few years ago. As for US motives – where to start? The Comandante’s use of Venezuelan oil to benefit the people rather than monopolies? His friendship with Cuba? The list is endless.

To conclude: all progressives can say of Chavez what Engels said at the grave of Marx: ‘Above all he was a revolutionist. In the struggle, he was in his element. Humanity is shorter by a head and a large one at that.’

Mike Webber

Aylesbury, Bucks


 

Bedroom tax scam

I was recently told to pay the bedroom tax. I’m currently a student and working. Paying tax, living my life and getting by like most people I know. My housing benefit has recently been slashed since I have a third bedroom – which I did not ask for, like most of the residents in my block of flats. The housing association’s answer to the problem? Demolish all the blocks! Yes, despite homelessness being at at crisis point and housing associations in many areas putting people into B&Bs for lack of social housing, at the same time they’re knocking down 96 homes to build private flats. The housing trust has given me eight weeks to find somewhere else. They’ve been planning this since September 2011 and said nothing till now. My debt (I was already behind before they brought in the bedroom tax) will be taken out of any compensation. With no promise of somewhere safe I have to start from scratch. Meanwhile people on benefits are painted in the media in a bad light. The most recent example is Channel 4’s Skint, which shows people on jobseeker’s allowance mocking people in a full-time job. It’s all about creating scapegoats to distract from the reality of how the majority are treated. Is this any kind of fair representation? I’d like to see Channels 4’s programme ‘for’ welfare, if there ever is one.

Sam Knowles

Wythenshawe, Manchester


 

Thatcher’s real legacy

I was speaking to a prisoner from Wales following the death of former prime minister Margaret Thatcher, and he described how, as a boy, he had gone to work in one of the three mines near his home. At the time all three mines were visible from his front door. Soon there was no visible indication that they had ever been there.

After the mines closed, he and many others became unemployed, and my man was active in the demonstrations against the closures. I was told of extreme brutality by ‘army disguised as police’ which included ‘stabbing with pointed shields’ and stamping on the bare feet of demonstrators. My man knew miners’ leader Arthur Scargill and corresponded with him, and he shared a good deal of his pleasure in hearing that Mrs Thatcher had passed away. What he told me indicates what Mrs Thatcher’s ‘legacy’ really is and I was not surprised when he told me ‘I wouldn’t be where I am today [ie prison] were it not for her’.

George Coombes

Brighton

Letters /FRFI 232 Apr/May 2013

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 232 April/May 2013

In memory of Hugo Chavez

In response to the RCG’s message of condolence and solidarity on the death of Hugo Chavez, we received this reply from the Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

Thank you very much for your kind message.

During this difficult time for us as Venezuelans, your words were greatly appreciated.

In spite of Chavez’s absence, we will always carry with us his example, perhaps the most important of which was his true dedication and constant perseverance to realise his dreams of independence, sovereignty, justice and solidarity.

Thanks again for your support.

SAMUEL MONCADA

Ambassador


 

‘All of Cuba is hurting for Chavez’

I was in Cuba on 5 March when the death of Hugo Chavez was announced. It had been clear from the night before that he was seriously unwell but his death still came as a shock. On the Cubavision evening news veteran newsreader Rafael Serrano delivered the government statement expressing condolences to Chavez’s family, describing Chavez as a ‘son of Cuba’ and rededicating itself to ‘the unity of revolutionary forces and the integration and independence of Our America’. Serrano was visibly moved as he ended the statement with the words ‘Hasta la victoria siempre!’

The following day as I walked around Havana the overall feeling was one of deep loss. As one man told me: ‘All of Cuba is hurting for Chavez’.

On 7 March I joined thousands and thousands of people queuing to get into Revolution Square to show their solidarity with Chavez and the people of Venezuela at a special memorial. People of all ages and backgrounds stood in line for up to six hours to pay their respects: military cadets, young girls carrying flowers, older men and women from the local CDRs, workers from the Havana West science institutes, Honduran students carrying their national flag.

Similar sites had been set up in cities across the country. In Santiago the first visitor to the memorial was Raul Castro, who placed a white rose in front of Chavez’s picture, before flying to Caracas to attend the funeral the following day.

FRFI READER

North London


 

Chavez’s revolution will carry on

Thank you for your letter. Yes, it was sad to hear the news about the death of Hugo Chavez. He did good things for Venezuela, especially for the poor. I hope this good work carries on after his death and they do not adopt this greedy capitalism. His revolution will carry on and hopefully be adopted by more countries.

I’m doing well. Regarding my civil case [against the British government and security services for alleged collusion in torture] we are still waiting for in camera documents from the government. The European Court of Human Rights has currently put my case on hold until the civil case is over. As you’ll have seen, the government is trying to pass through a law which will allow them to have secret courts for such cases.

Thank you for all your help in this difficult time and carry on the good work.

RANGZIEB AHMED A6326AC

HMP Full Sutton

Fighting evictions in Brent / FRFI 231 Feb/Mar 2013

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 231 February-March 2013

Readers of FRFI will have been following the struggle of the Counihan Sanchez family in Brent, London, to get the council to provide adequate housing, not just for themselves, but for all families in need in the borough. Teenager SARAH COUNIHAN SANCHEZ writes here about her experience of her family’s fight to get Brent Council to face up to its responsibilities and provide proper housing for her family.

We all hear about cuts being enforced, but do we all know what they actually mean? Not everyone is aware of what is ahead, but everyone has the right to know how they are going to be affected if they have not been already. We must stand up and stand together and fight; we can’t be scared as it’s our homes we are fighting for. My personal experience of housing problems has opened my eyes to what people are facing and the sad thing is that there is still more to come.

Homelessness is not something you would expect to happen to you. Being evicted from your home is a very difficult thing and it is happening to more and more people. The cuts are affecting so many people and this is not right; these are some of the reasons our campaign started. Last year was a hard year and no one should go through losing their home the way so many families have. The campaign is now a big family and the positive thing about having these hard experiences is meeting people that share your views and that will fight with you for what is right and what we all deserve.

The Counihan Sanchez Family Housing Campaign (CSHC) has tried to make efforts with the councillors of Brent, asking them to sign a pledge against evictions in the area; this has been asked by different members of the campaign to different members of the council, with all of them refusing to do so. My mum Isabel Counihan Sanchez asked Muhammed Butt (leader of Brent Council) at a Labour Representation Committee meeting earlier this month to sign this pledge after he spoke about how he didn’t like the cuts, but he refused.

Our local authorities are meant to help us and fight for the people in the borough, but this doesn’t seem to be happening. I said to Mary Arnold (Kilburn councillor and Brent lead member for children and families) why can’t Brent be the first borough to stand up and say NO to these cuts. Why do the vulnerable people have to suffer and pay? People are being moved out of their homes, their communities, and away from their families.

After a Brent Fightback meeting earlier in January Jim from our campaign asked Brent councillor Claudia Hector to sign the pledge against evictions and cuts. She refused to do so, made untrue statements about the Counihan family and accused us of bullying her. We need councillors that are willing to shout with us, not against us!

The impression given by councillors when you talk to them is that they don’t like the cuts but they can’t do anything about it. They won’t take a stand, but they need to; we all do. People are being pushed out of their areas; the working class are being forced out of London. Bus companies are paying new drivers a lower wage than longstanding drivers receive for doing the same job! Who will drive our buses and trains? Where will children go to school? Who will work in shops, clean our streets and do all of the other jobs that need to be done?

We need to fight for our rights and show that we do not like how we are being treated and that we deserve more! Our councils have the power to fight for the people in their borough, and that’s what councils should be doing! The way councils treat people, sending eviction letters to people without helping them with where to go and sending people to houses to ensure people have moved, is just not right. People are receiving eviction letters for unpaid rent, but with rent being so high, jobs being hard to get, and benefits being cut, what do they expect? We do not deserve this, and as these people are elected and are doing this job to fight for people in the borough, we should be fought for!

No to evictions, no to cuts!

In 2013, we will be continuing to fight, and we hope everyone will continue to fight with us, we can achieve something if we believe it! 2013 needs to be a year of raising awareness, standing together and showing that we don’t agree with what is taking place.

CSHC intends to do this and to try and help people who are having housing difficulties and anyone opposed to the cuts. Everyone is able to join this campaign and join the fight. If we all come together, our voices will be louder.

Our next public meeting is on Thursday 31 January 7-9pm. Salvation Army,

55 Chichester Road, Kilburn London NW6 5QW.

To get involved in campaign events call Jimmy Mac on 07958 157 392. The campaign is on Facebook at Counihan Battlebus and Counihan Sanchez Housing Campaign.

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

Letters / FRFI 229 Oct/Nov 2012

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 229 October/November 2012

Support Basque political prisoners! No to extradition!

On Friday 13 July, Basque national Benat Atorrasagasti Ordonez was arrested in the Leith area of Edinburgh. The raid on his flat was the outcome of a lengthy joint operation between Spain’s Guardia Civil and Lothian and Borders police. A judge at the National Court in Madrid made a formal written request to the British authorities to detain him under a European Arrest Warrant. They duly complied.

Benat has a job in Britain, where he had been living openly with his wife and two young children for ten years. He appeared at Edinburgh Sheriff’s Court on 16 July for an initial extradition hearing, where the court heard that he was wanted under two extradition acts: one in France dating from 2006 where he was sentenced to five years imprisonment in his absence, the other to stand trial in Spain. Benat’s solicitor told the sheriff that his client ‘does not consent to extradition and denies any wrongdoing in France or Spain’ and went on to emphasise that Benat had made no attempt to conceal his identity, pointing out that he had a national insurance number and paid council tax and energy bills.

The court set the next hearing for 7 September, subsequently put back to 8 October. He is currently being held in Edinburgh’s Saughton prison. The Edinburgh-based James Connolly Society is supporting Benat in his fight against extradition and is ‘calling on the SNP government to intervene and allow Benat and his family to get on with their life in Scotland.’ FRFI demands an end to the Spanish state’s ruthless campaign against Basque political prisoners, independent political parties and trade unions.

Free Benat! Free all political prisoners!

DANIEL MCGARRELL

Glasgow

There will be an event in solidarity with Basque prisoners on 24 November at Brixton Jamm in south London from 12noon until late. More information from London Basque Solidarity – contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

Rangzieb Ahmed: a step closer to justice?

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has given permission for Rangzieb Ahmed and Salahuddin Amin to challenge the British government for infringing their human rights by colluding with their torture at the hands of the Pakistani intelligence services (ISI).

Both men are serving life imprisonment on terrorism charges.

Rangzieb Ahmed, from Rochdale near Manchester, was detained by the ISI in 2005 at the request of MI5. He was shackled, beaten and deprived of sleep as well as having three fingernails pulled out with pliers, and interrogated with questions supplied by British security services. He was also questioned and threatened directly by MI5.

In 2008 he was sentenced to life imprisonment as an allegedly ‘high-ranking’ member of Al Qaeda. The jury was never informed of his ill-treatment and, in rejecting his application to appeal in 2011, Britain’s Supreme Court threw out any suggestion of British complicity in his torture.

Now the ECtHR has written to the British government demanding explanations on a number of issues relating to MI5 involvement in the men’s mistreatment; if the court does not receive satisfactory answers by the end of October, it will proceed to a full hearing which, if successful, will almost certainly lead to the British courts being forced to quash the convictions. Evidence obtained by torture is not permitted under British or European law.

In 2009, Ahmed was visited in his cell in Manchester by two men identifying themselves as MI5, who offered him a deal – money and a reduced sentence – in return for dropping his allegations of torture against them. How long can Britain persist in its official cover-up, when it is an open secret that it has colluded with torture and ill-treatment of detainees throughout the so-called ‘War against Terror’? If the case of Salahuddin Amin and Rangzieb Ahmed goes to a full hearing, it will blow the issue wide open once again.

Write to

Rangzieb Ahmed (A6326AC),

HMP Full Sutton,

York YO41 1PS

CAT ALLISON

South London

 

Boxing legends

I just wanted to congratulate Matt Kelly on the superb tribute to Teofilo Stevenson in FRFI 228. Some readers may be unaware of the context of Teofilo’s remark about the love of millions of Cubans being more important than money. US promoters had been trying to arrange a fight between him and Muhammad Ali, and the stumbling block was that for it to take place, Teofilo would have had to defect to the US and turn professional, as all sport in Cuba is amateur. This he would not do. It is noteworthy that while Ali described with much relish the thrashings he would mete out to rivals as distinguished as Sonny Liston, Joe Frazier and George Foreman, his attitude to Teofilo was vastly more respectful, suggesting that had they ever met in the ring, it would have been a draw. This should not surprise – Ali won the admiration of a generation for refusing to fight for US imperialism in Vietnam. Teofilo deserves no less for refusing to desert besieged socialist Cuba to ingratiate himself with the US rulers imposing the siege.

MIKE WEBBER

Aylesbury

 

Opposing British Army recruitment

It was great to read in the last issue of FRFI about the two young activists who stood in front of the British army recruiting stalls at an education and employment fair.

Given the free rein the British army has over the British media it takes a great deal of courage to go against the carefully constructed wisdom that the army can do no wrong.

The fact that these young men have been willing to do so at such a young age and so publicly is tremendous credit to their ability to think freely against a barrage of propaganda.

I hope they are as proud of themselves as I was to read about their actions.

Steven McAvoy

Glasgow

 

No Olympic legacy for the working class

Cat Wiener is right to point out the militarisation of the Olympic Games (FRFI 228). But it is also the most commercialised ever. I feel quite sick at the level of involvement of corporations such as Coca-Cola and McDonald’s. The ‘Olympic spirit’ has been bought out by these vicious capitalists. I am a resident of the east London borough of Tower Hamlets, one of the most deprived and racially mixed areas of the UK, and the truth is that to the vast majority of people here, the Olympics are irrelevant. Even if they could get ahead of the queue of corporate hospitality clients, they could not afford a ticket to the Games anyway. For poor working class people here there will be no ‘Olympic legacy’: just imagine how much better the £12bn could have been spent on jobs and housing.

By the way, the article under the banner ‘Lessons of history for communists’ by Robert Clough in the same issue was brilliant. I do hope that this strand will become a regular item in the paper. It was pitched just right for the general reader and most useful.

JON KEMPSTER

East London

 

Fight for a more equal future

Your article ‘Poverty and inequality in Britain’ (FRFI 228, August/ September) was a hard-hitting expose of how divided life is in the UK today. It really is shocking.

Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson have exposed how damaging income inequality can be. In their recent book The Spirit Level, they show how a wide gap between rich and poor actually makes our physical and mental health worse. Very unequal societies like the US and Britain can be really stressful and make people ill. Research also shows that high levels of inequality reduce levels of trust between people and cut social mobility. The educational performance of school children is also hit hard by a divided society. Everyone is affected, but the poor suffer most.

The Equality Trust has done some fascinating research on this issue. I recommend looking at their website at www.equalitytrust.org.uk. A more equal society would make us healthier and more successful. That’s the kind of future socialists should fight for.

GRAEME KEMP

Shropshire