Letters / FRFI 222 Aug/Sep 2011

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 222 August/September 2011

Bradford 12: the right to self-defence

The article remembering the 30th anniversary of the Bradford 12 (FRFI 221) was very welcome. It is important that new generations learn about their historic victory that affirmed the right of self-defence for communities under racist attack.

As a former resident of Bradford, campaigner for the 12 and FRFI correspondent, I feel I need to address some of the inaccuracies in the article.

The Bradford 12 were not ‘members and supporters’ of the Asian Youth Movement, but belonged to an organisation called the United Black Youth League. Their banner is actually shown in the photo accompanying the article.

The articles states that the victory was achieved by the organisation of an ‘inclusive and non-sectarian defence campaign’.

When the Bradford 12 were arrested and remanded on the serious charges of conspiracy, there was a tremendous outpouring of support for them and a huge public meeting was held in an Asian cinema in the city. Many people wanted to get involved and be active in defending them. This energy was unfortunately lost in the weeks after the arrests.

A strong defence campaign was built with great difficulty. Various groups wished to control the campaign and indeed would not participate at all unless they could do so. There were few open meetings for people to attend and actions that would have sustained momentum and participation such as pickets, leafleting and demonstrations were opposed or poorly organised. There was such little sustained campaigning activity while the prisoners were on remand, that Tariq Mehmood was forced to write from his cell demanding unity and a broad-based campaign.

It is simply not true to say that the Bradford 12 campaign had ‘no truck with opportunists and trimmers’, who aimed to ‘confine the anger of the people.’ The reality was that anyone involved at that time had a constant struggle against opportunists and sectarians and it took literally months for a national demonstration to be called.

The campaign that was eventually built was indeed crucial to the victory, but the first rate legal defence was also a huge factor. Legal representatives included Gareth Peirce, Michael Mansfield and Geoffrey Roberston.

It is a shame that the article ended with an earlier quote from Manjit Singh of the Asian Youth Movement. Manjit Singh, also known as Marsha Singh, was one of the biggest blocks to building the Bradford 12 defence campaign and opposed at every stage open, democratic and participatory meetings. He joined the Labour Party in the 1980s and in 1997 became the Labour MP for Bradford West. His voting record shows he supported more restrictions on those seeking asylum, opposed an inquiry into the Iraq war and was in favour of Labour’s anti-terrorism measures.

Bill Bolloten


Response: self defence is no offence

Bill Bolloten’s letter is a most welcome addition to the historical record. He played a central role in the defence campaign and was arrested himself at a street meeting in March 1982 on the charge of ‘blemishing the peace’ while petitioning for the Bradford 12 (FRFI 17, March 1982).

Bill is right to draw attention to the first rate legal defence that the case attracted and the names of Helena Kennedy, barrister for Saeed Hussain, and Leeds solicitor Ruth Bundey should be added to his list.

On the matter of organisations, it is true that the photo in FRFI 221 shows the banner of the United Black Youth League (UBYL). This was a breakaway group from the Asian Youth Movement (AYM) but whether all the defendants in the Bradford 12 case were members is not certain, nor are the political affiliations of the 68 young Asian men arrested at the same time. Nevertheless it was an error not to identify the UBYL.

I was unaware that Manjit Singh of the Bradford 12 Campaign is today Marsha Singh, MP for Bradford West. Bill does FRFI readers a service in drawing attention to this Labour MP’s record of grovelling conformity to Labour’s racist and imperialist record in government.

While accepting Bill’s clarifications, it remains politically important to state that the defence campaign had ‘no truck with opportunists and trimmers’. It is true that the campaign was subject to the usual sectarian bickering over leadership, even to the point of nearly destroying any action, which is the historic record of the British so-called ‘left’. Nevertheless the significance of the Bradford 12 campaign is that it could only be supported on the grounds of the right to self-defence. This was not a campaign about a miscarriage of justice, like the Guildford 4 or the Birmingham Six. It was not a campaign mourning the killing by police or prison guards of innocent victims, like Roger Sylvester. Supporters could not rally around banners proclaiming ‘The Bradford 12 are innocent – Free them now’. The opportunists and trimmers could not dilute the facts of the case, that the accused had met together to plan and carry out making 38 petrol bombs which were later found hidden in the grounds of a Bradford hospital with the fingerprints of two of the 12 defendants on them. Campaigners had to accept the view that resistance to state and racist attacks includes a whole range of political actions not limited to the confines of peaceful protest, the trade unions or the Labour Party.

How different was this determination to fight back to the farce acted out in September 1978 by the Anti-Nazi League when it led 80,000 people away from Hyde Park to a festival in Brixton, in full knowledge that the same day the National Front was marching in the East End of London under the protection of 5,000 police. The call for help from the Hackney and Tower Hamlet’s Defence Committee and the community of Brick Lane was rejected because the International Marxist Group and Socialist Workers’ Party did not want violence: ‘such a movement on the empty streets of London facing 8,000 police might not have broken through and beaten the Nazi marchers’ (Socialist Worker 30 September 78). These cowards chose to make common cause with Tony Benn (Labour cabinet minister) and Sid Bidwell (MP for Southall) rather than Asian people being assaulted by the police. ‘After all, the fact that a Labour Cabinet minister and a major trade union leader are speaking at Hyde Park is not an unimportant fact’ (Socialist Challenge 21 September 1978). This was the opportunism and trimming that characterised the British left at that time and that still today puts the interests of the British Labour Party before those of the most oppressed.

Today the English Defence League and British National Party, encouraged by the war chauvinism of consecutive British governments, threaten communities with violence. A raft of new laws on terrorism combined with the Prevent Strategy and undercover surveillance suppress and control opposition. It is under these circumstances that we remember and celebrate the victory of the Bradford 12 who against great odds showed how necessary is the fight for justice.

Susan Davidson


Support Terry Allen

For over three years I have been waiting for the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) to authorise an essential DNA test – and I am still waiting.

I have been in prison now for 26 years. For 23 of those years, I was told that all the forensic evidence relating to my case had been destroyed on police orders in November 1985. I was ready to go back to the appeal court in March 2008, when suddenly my missing forensic samples were ‘found’.

To date only one DNA test has taken place, and that was over two years ago, but the CCRC refused to give my solicitor the results on the basis that it needed to be confirmed by a second DNA test – which we’re still waiting for them to authorise!

DNA tests will enable the capture of three known killers, whom I can name, who left their DNA behind, and possibly another two. Those bastards have had 26 years of freedom they should never have had. Can you help embarrass the CCRC into allowing the second DNA test to go ahead?

TERRY ALLEN (A6119AD)

HMP Leyhill

To support Terry, write to Criminal Cases Review Commission, 5 St Philip’s Place, Birmingham, B3 2PW or email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or tel: 0121 233 1473

Torture inquiry boycott


As you will know, my appeal against conviction was refused, with two points of law about complicity with torture being referred to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court did not give me leave to appeal, so I am taking my case to the European Court of Human Rights.

Regarding the ‘independent’ inquiry which David Cameron announced [into British complicity with illegal rendition and torture] all the detainees and human rights organisations will most probably boycott it. This is because the inquiry will not be conducted according to international law and there are a lot of things they want to cover up by doing them in private.

Thank you for your support.

RANGZIEB AHMED (A6326AC)

HMP Full Sutton


Fight for real collective action

The headline on the Socialist Worker newspaper of 9 July read: 30 June strikes across Britain: This is just the start – now we need a general strike. If you are someone who has just lost their job, or are part of a service that is being cut, or know that anyone who leaves your work place will have their post frozen, or if you have lost benefits or if you know that your union is more interested in negotiating decent terms for those taking voluntary redundancy rather than fighting to save the job –  then that headline would make you laugh out loud. The SWP is living in a fantasy world. What we need to do is to oppose the individualism that pervades our society and fight for collective action in all workplaces, so that no jobs and no services are lost without a fightback.

Megan Lapujole

East London


Control units in the US

I read Nicki Jameson’s article on Muslim prisoners in Britain (FRFI 221) with interest. The US is doing much the same here with the units at Marion and Terre Haute, and the ADX prison in Florence, Colorado. We are not even sure how many US secret prisons overseas there are where the conditions are reported to be even worse. The US began control units in an experiment on the activists of my generation. That exploded into isolation units, largely for the mentally ill, via Supermax Prisons. The federal government then subsidised the building of isolation units (pre 9/11) known as Security Threat Group Management Units, which were for purported gang members. The latest are the Communications Management Units which are for those of the Islamic faith. They are now ‘integrating’ them racially with imprisoned Environmental Liberation Front people (who have little grounding in revolutionary politics).

BONNIE KERNESS

American Friends Service Committee Prison Watch Project

 

Letters / FRFI 221 June/July 2011

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 221 June/July 2011

Police ‘pre-Royal Wedding’ harassment

I was shocked to be arrested at 7am on 25 April by eight Territorial Support Group officers and, I believe, two detectives at my home in London for alleged ‘violent disorder’ during the TUC demo on 26 March. Initially the police failed to identify themselves, they just hammered on the door. They also failed to produce a search warrant when requested by both myself and my girlfriend. Only as they were leaving the property was my girlfriend given the warrant after much argument.

The search was very detailed, even though the warrant only mentioned items of clothing to be taken. They rifled through documents and even my girlfriend’s make-up. They removed a respirator, scarf, laptop and two rucksacks. I was taken to the local police station where I was told they were going to make the whole process as difficult as they could for me as there was a ‘marker’ on my file stating I’d made previous complaints about the police.

 

I was a bit worried about what they meant by that. The duty sergeant ordered a strip-search in the only cell with no cameras. I refused to leave the relative safety of the front desk. She understood my concern and I was strip-searched in a standard cell covered by CCTV and given white overalls to wear as if it were a forensic investigation. I was then examined by a doctor for a ‘full body map’ to see if I had any injuries; thankfully there were none.

I was interviewed by the two detectives and shown poor quality footage of the TUC demo where some masked protesters threw a traffic cone at a police van – it could have been anyone. The only reason I could see for my arrest was my previous peaceful involvement in other protests, making it unlawful and unjustified.

I was charged and released at 1.30pm, and all my possessions seized earlier were returned. I was bailed to report to the police station on 9 May and not to enter the City of Westminster. I had a bus booked for Scotland later in the day specifically to avoid the Royal Wedding, which I almost missed due to this unnecessary police action.

On my return to London my lawyer informed me that the violent disorder charge had been dropped and no further action was being taken. I will of course be taking further legal advice and live in fear of the next unfounded police sortie.

Harvie Brown

London


 

Police state in Ireland

While the Queen of England was visiting Dublin, I carried and waved the Irish tricolour, our national flag, at a demonstration. This was deemed a ‘crime’ by the Gardai. I was assaulted by the police, handcuffed and taken away in a police van.

Later that night I appeared in court charged under the Public Order Act, sections 6 and 8. I was effectively denied bail as the judge demanded €300 cash bail. I was to sign on three times a week at a Garda barracks and would be banned from entering the city boundaries between Dublin 1 and Dublin 8.

My solicitor pointed out that I was being illegally detained. I was held for approximately 30 hours before being released and appeared in court on 24 May. The case is continuing.

DERMOT

Ireland


 

Media cover-up for racist attacks on Celtic FC

I have been deeply disgusted by the mainstream?media’s coverage of the recent racist abuse?directed?at?Neil Lennon, manager of Celtic Football Club, and their clear political attacks on Celtic FC supporters. Not only have they tried to disguise the blatant?anti-Irish racism directed at Neil Lennon,?they have also described many?of the political songs?sung by?sections of Celtic supporters as sectarian. Nowhere has this been more evident than during?the?BBC’s coverage of the Scottish Cup Final when at half-time Sportscene host Rob Maclean?told the millions of viewers watching that ‘the Celtic supporters have been singing sectarian songs during the first half’. He must have been referring to ‘Boys of the Old Brigade’, an Irish rebel song which does not once mention religion. Funnily enough, just two months ago during a CIS Cup Final, thousands of Rangers FC fans could clearly be heard singing ‘Oh no, Pope of Rome, no chapels to sadden my eyes/No nuns and no priests and no rosary beads’. This could be heard loud and clear, and again Maclean was on duty that day, but didn’t utter a word about that. It is plain to see that the BBC will continue to distort and completely deny the truth. I would advise all to lodge a complaint against the BBC bigots. It is not sectarianism, it is anti-Irish racism.

CONNOR RILEY

Glasgow


 

Anti-imperialist activity in Dorset

I enclose money for ten copies of the pamphlet and 25 copies of the June/July issue of FRFI. Thanks for two excellent issues – it is helping several good comrades to coalesce and encouraging me to study more thoroughly.

There’s been quite a lot of activity here, with meetings and films on Palestine in Sherbourne and Dorchester – over 100 people attended the Dorchester event. There was a debate in Ilminster about Libya – the vote went against the war. 250 people rallied against the EDL in Weymouth, where the fascists had about 90, mainly elderly skinheads. The anti-fascist rally was good, with an open microphone. Films in Bridport, organised by anarchists, the IWW and us alongside some non-aligned people have been good – we screened the World According to Monsanto, a French film, for 45 people last Sunday week; the previous month it was Battle of Algiers to an audience of approximately 30.

JOHN BURBIDGE

Sherbourne


 

FRFI censored

I am currently at HMP Long Lartin. I was receiving your paper at HMP Belmarsh, then I was moved to HMP?Manchester aka Strangeways in October 2009, where they did not allow me to have the papers you had sent me. My solicitors Birnberg Peirce and Partners wrote to them and after months of delaying tactics they said, in a letter dated 11 May 2010, that I would be allowed to have the paper. Two days later I was moved to Long Lartin.

I’ve just read the April/May 2011 FRFI which states that there is still a blanket ban at Manchester prison. This is interesting as it seems that my legal team and I were deceived and they probably only wrote that I?could have the paper as they knew I would be shipped out in a couple of days.

I will be taking HMP?Manchester to court for a number of issues, including not allowing me to have FRFI while I?was there. If anyone has any evidence or information that shows that HMP?Manchester is still not allowing prisoners to have FRFI since May 2010 please pass it on to my solicitor Daniel Guedalla at Birnberg Peirce.

I would like to thank you for your excellent paper and the hard work you do to fight for justice and freedom, against discrimination and to give a voice to the voiceless.

AHMED ALI A2037AF

HMP Long Lartin


 

Abuse and assault under Close Supervision

I write to relate my personal experience of Close Supervision Centres (CSCs) and the torture I have been subjected to in prisons.

After officers sustained injuries at HMP Frankland in March 2010, only a sick individual could imagine the level of violence I sustained. This carried on at HMP Wakefield where I spent 13 days of extreme racial, physical and sexual abuse. After I reported this, I was quickly moved to Woodhill CSC. Psychological torture is extremely painful and, some may say, worse than the physical kind.  Orders are barked and failure to jump high enough leads to further abuse and, often, assault. I have on several occasions not jumped at all, like the time I was ordered to move my toothbrush from one clearly visible point in the cell to another, this resulted in no exercise, shower, phone call, food, library, nothing – behavioural modification skills these ex-army prison officers learned out in Afghanistan, Iraq and other wars.

From all the abuse I have suffered from prison staff, I now have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), resulting in severe anxiety, panic attacks, flashbacks, nightmares and constant fear. I have gone through such bad spells that I have been unable to leave my bed for days, as well as having attempted to take my own life on five occasions in the last ten months.

I am told I require a clinical psychologist to treat my PTSD but ‘none are available’. I therefore have to live an unbearable life, just waiting for the day I am forced to end it, or the staff do it for me and cover it up to make it appear to be a suicide. Either way, I am struggling and need some serious support.

The worst thing is that I am innocent of the crime which I have been imprisoned for in the first place. This resulted in a life sentence of 35 years and I am almost four years into it.

I have been the victim of an unprovoked attack by officers while at HMP Woodhill, resulting in a fractured wrist and six hours in Special Accommodation. I then received a nicking for ‘attempting to commit an assault’ as well as having my unlock level increased and ALL privileges removed.  It’s not the first time this has  happened.

KEVAN THAKRAR A4907AE

HMP WOODHILL, Tattenhoe Street, Milton Keynes, MK14 4DA

(see http://justiceforkev.webs. com)

Anyone with information which might assist me against the charges I face in relation to HMP Frankland should contact my solicitor, Marie Bourke at Bark and Co solicitors, Bridewell Court, 14 New Bridge Street, London EC4V 6AE. I am especially interested in anyone who has taken a civil claim against Frankland or sustained abuse by staff there.


 

Berlin: authorities collaborate with Neo-Nazis

On 14 May 2011 Berlin witnessed an unprecedented example of collaboration between the Neo-Nazis and the authorities of the department for demonstrations and the local council. The authorities had permitted a Neo-Nazi march to start midday on Saturday but kept it secret from the public. One of the Neo-Nazis revealed the details on the internet just hours before it was due to start, so it was possible to organise a counter-demonstration. Against 100 followers of the Neo-Nazi Freier Kameradschaften (Free Comradeship organisation) and members of NPD (National Party of Germany), there were 800 people organised to physically prevent the march. The 500-strong police force present brutally attacked the anti-fascist demonstrators with pepper spray and truncheons. However, they failed to disperse the protesters and the Neo-Nazis declared their event as finished. But nevertheless then Neo-Nazis ‘broke through’ the police kettle and savagely attacked the counter-demonstrators and passers-by. Four people were reported as injured.

The behavior of the authorities and the police showed clearly for the first time the pact between the Neo-Nazis and the police to prevent any kind of anti-fascist protest before it even starts. How else was it possible for the Neo-Nazis so easily to avoid police cordons? And after the attacks to the counter-demonstrators, the police just sent the fascists back to their meeting point rather than arresting them! This event clearly shows that not just the Neo-Nazis but the state police must be considered as an enemy force against any kind of progressive movement.

ANDREAS MEINHOF

Berlin


 

Unity needed against fascism

It was nice to read your article [on the joint resistance by the RCG and Socialist Party to EDL attempts at intimidation in Newcastle, FRFI 220]. As a Socialist Party member, I am proud that you supported us and likewise we did the same.

We may have our political differences, but at least we know who the enemy is!

PAUL

via email


 

Up the virtual garden path

Andrea Hill, the £218,000 a year Chief Executive of Suffolk County Council is on ‘gardening leave’ –the euphemism for employees who have been sacked or are leaving and have been instructed to stay away from work while remaining on the pay-roll.

Under the government’s New Strategic Directive to downsize the responsibilities of local councils, Andrea Hill led an initiative to promote a ‘virtual council’. The plan was to outsource all services to local social enterprises, charities and staff-mutuals (consortia of employees). Her plan collapsed under massive cuts to the local services budget, together with the need to observe legal requirements for statutory services to disabled people, children and others in need. Similar attempted transfers of local council duties by Bury and Brighton & Hove Council have crashed to a halt.

The lesson is that the civilising infrastructure of even a capitalist society cannot rely on the whims of some and the profits of others. There is no substitute for the democratic control of our services and that is what we must fight for.

SUSAN DAVIDSON

North London


 

 

Letters / FRFI 220 April/May 2011

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 220 April/May 2011

British complicity with torture

Thank you for the newspaper – I received it in the end! Please thank all who are involved with FRFI, they do an amazing job.

You will have heard that I lost my appeal against conviction, although to be frank I never thought we’d end up with an honest judgment. It’s to be expected, especially in politically motivated cases, such as the Birmingham Six. This government will do anything to hide its crimes against its own citizens. I knew that M15 would not allow the judges to speak the truth. But we must stay strong. I have been allowed to appeal.

With regards to the public inquiry [on torture], the government is looking for a whitewash. There was a report published by Human Rights Watch in November last year called Cruel Britannia: British complicity in the torture and ill-treatment of terror suspects in Pakistan. In it, Pakistani security services admit that the accounts of the victims are true and the British government was pressing them for results. This was further proved by a programme by Peter Taylor, The secret war on terror, broadcast on BBC2 in March, where President Musharraf was very bold with his words.

RANGZIEB AHMED A6326AC

HMP Full Sutton


Support the Maghaberry POWs!

In February the Maghaberry POWs went on protest against the prison administration for continual strip-searches and reneging on its commitment to introduce electronic scanning equipment. The POWs refused to comply with strip-searches in a bid to force the prison administration to deliver on its promise, made in August 2010.

On the 15 March two Republican POWs – Kevin Barry Nolan and Gerard McManus – were both subjected to two forced strip-searches each when leaving and returning to the prison. They both suffered injuries to their wrists, arms and bodies. Eight riot squad officers forced them to the ground using riot shields and twisted their wrists to hold them to the ground as they forcibly removed all their clothing.

Another tactic used by the prison officers to break prisoners is sleep deprivation.Wardens are opening the hatches on the cells and shouting through numerous times every night in what appears to be an attempt to aggravate the POWs through sleep deprivation.

Support the POWs on protest in any way possible. The men and women of 1980-81 had tremendous support from the public. These men are no different; they are Irish political prisoners being brutalised by a British prison system which seeks to break them both mentally and physically. Do not allow these men to be forgotten. Do not allow the British government to triumph.

JOHN BRADY SOCIETY

Scotland


Student accommodation rip-off

Companies running student halls are ripping off university students. I’m in my second year of a film and media degree at Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU). During my first year I lived in shared accommodation at Mill Point halls, which is run by the Liberty Living company. We were given what we thought was a good deal at the time, with bills included in the rent and only having to pay £100 deposit. But since leaving the halls, my former flatmates and I have been hounded by Liberty Living for money we shouldn’t owe.

After we moved out Liberty gave us maintenance bills of around £150 each; my friend got a £400 bill! We had left the flat in a good state of repair and cleaned hard to avoid giving them any excuse to impose charges. All of us complained immediately but our complaints were ignored for months and the charges remained. When I gave them an angry phone call, their response was to send a detailed account showing what we supposedly owed – including hundreds of pounds for painting and decorating, new carpets  and all sorts of things we shouldn’t have been responsible for. We were also told that our £100 deposit was non-refundable.

As if that wasn’t enough, the university has used our dispute with Liberty to deny us access to facilities and severely jeopardise our studies. MMU has disabled my library card and I have been blocked from accessing the uni intranet, stopped from getting key information at a time of year when work is due in. I can’t believe that a university can be run like a business to attack students rather than help us when private firms are after what little money we have. Fees are set to rise and it seems like the universities are on the side of the rich.

This kind of abuse by companies that run halls seems widespread. Mill Point halls are becoming notorious for ripping students off. But many students just pay, particularly those with parents who can. They are often bullied into it as the university and private company gang up on them.

Liberty have knocked back my appeal against these charges and things are difficult. If it wasn’t for the small bursary I am entitled to I wouldn’t even be able to pay rent. Others have been refused their bursaries because of Liberty’s fees. I can’t pay these charges and I won’t. If more students do the same these cheats would have a real problem on their hands.

JORDANE NIGHTINGALE

Manchester


Germany’s Nazi law

Every issue of FRFI is an inspiration for English-speaking prisoners here in Bruchsal, a prison in Germany. Thanks to FRFI and everyone who helps to ensure that the newspaper can be sent to inmates. Currently we’re having a discussion in Germany about the the categorisation of ‘dangerous inmates’, because the European Court of Human Rights has found Germany guilty on a number of occasions of violating human rights law. The German courts make use of a Nazi law of ‘Preventive Detention’, dating from 1933, to hold people behind bars despite having completed their ‘regular’ sentences. I think it says a lot about a society that it still relies on a law introduced by Hitler and Goebbels!

THOMAS MEYER-FALK

www.freedom-for-thomas.de


Workers should control banks

Congratulations on highlighting the arrogance of the ConDem junta and its failure to take on the banks (FRFI 219, February/March).

It is obscene that ordinary workers have to suffer the cuts caused by the financial meltdown. Public services are suffering already. Why should we suffer when it was the banks that caused the crisis? Yet, as the money in our pockets disappears, the City lines its pockets with grotesque bonus payouts.

We need not only to tax these bonuses and bank profits more heavily, but also elect ordinary workers and customers to the board that runs each bank. We need more democracy in the banking system. Workers need to be in control.

GRAEME KEMP

(by email)


HMP Wakefield harassment

Many thanks to all of you for your ongoing help and support from the bottom of my heart.  My thanks also go to all my loyal supporters who have not let me down. I was wrongfully convicted over 24 years ago on fabricated evidence. Presently my legal team has contacted a linguistic expert to test three statements, one which I made and two which were fabricated. Now I am hoping that sooner rather than later all my supporters can be on my victory train celebrating justice day.

As a hostage in a foreign country, living in a dungeon, each day has its own difficulties. Some time ago HMP Wakefield stopped me receiving copies of newspapers. I took the matter to the prison and probation ombudsman and my complaint against the prison was upheld. Yesterday, I was informed by prison officers that I am no longer allowed to correspond with my long-standing supporter and friend Dr George Coombs because of some artwork I have on a website which I was told is making a profit. I have contacted the ombudsman and my solicitor about this. The prison authorities have not given me anything in writing, simply told me I can’t correspond with him because of the paintings. Please note my artwork is internationally known and I posted it all out from the prison using legal channels. There is no basis for what HMP Wakefield is saying. They are just harassing me because the ombudsman upheld my earlier complaint.

The prison is certainly in contravention of the Human Rights Convention article 10 – freedom of expression; article 8 – right to a private life; article 6 – right to prove your innocence. Dr Coombs, my solicitor and my barrister are working to defend my legal rights. No justice – no peace.

PETER HAKALA A3960AE

HMP Wakefield

 

Letters / FRFI 219 Feb / Mar 2011

FRFI 219 February / March 2011

Kettling students

As one of the thousands of students who took to the streets on 9 December to defend my right to education, I witnessed first-hand the aggressive and inflammatory tactics of the Metropolitan Police.

After the first peaceful few hours at Parliament Square, the news that the Bill had been passed by a narrow majority slowly rippled through the crowd, and it was shortly after this that a member of the riot police told my friends and I that nobody was getting out – even a heavily-pregnant woman was refused.

The police had now created a situation in which thousands of cold, hungry, angry students – whose futures had just been clouded with uncertainty due to the scrapping of EMA and the raising of tuition fees – were kept in a very confined space, despite the dejected majority simply wanting to go home at this point. The police knew that this would lead to violence and rioting, which would allow the media to brand us as feral youth, and ultimately lead to an increase in their power: creating a situation in which they could without reproof legitimately consider borrowing water cannons from the North of Ireland to control us in the future.

This tactic was most blatantly obvious when the Treasury was being attacked. As its windows were broken, about 20 feet away stood at least 100 riot police, watching passively, while scores of cameras competed eagerly for the best shot.

At 9.30 that night, we were finally allowed out of Parliament Square, but our freedom was short-lived and we found ourselves kettled on Westminster Bridge. Two hours later we were finally allowed to go home, having been taught a clear message by the police of the consequences of exercising our right to protest.

Niamh McIntyre (aged 15)

North London


Tower Hamlets learning mentors face cuts

The government’s commitment to families from disadvantaged backgrounds is spurious and Cameron’s ‘big society’ is a sham. This is shown by the fact that learning mentors and school home support workers, who work in schools helping children and parents from economically deprived backgrounds, are facing an increasingly precarious employment situation. This comes directly after a project called Excellence in the Cities (which funded learning mentor posts in Tower Hamlets, east London) has had its funding cut.

Learning mentors work alongside children and families to raise school attendance and attainment by acting as an advocate, friend and source of advice to families who are experiencing difficulties due to poverty, disadvantage and violence. Removing learning mentors from schools will have a negative effect on the very families who are vulnerable to the increasingly bleak employment situation and draconian benefit cuts.

People need to be prepared – any letter sent to employees about  ‘proposed restructuring’ and ‘consultation’ is nearly always an attempt to get rid of staff –  and people should be wary of this.  Pressure needs to be put on employers to offer job shares and to employ people on a part-time basis rather than make staff redundant.

I am glad that FRFI supports the struggle for full employment and free education for all. Keep up the good work.

Ayesha Taylor

School-Home Support Worker/Learning Mentor


Imperialist usury in Brazil

Over the years, I have found Alvaro Michaels’ articles on Latin America a delight to read. They are insightful and educative, anti-imperialist to the core. However, in the latest issue of FRFI, his article contains a puzzling comment. He stated: ‘Brazil cannot prevent the continued imposition of usury imperialism on top of the scheme of direct investments.’ (‘Brazil: accelerating exploitation’, FRFI 218)

It is not clear what Comrade Michaels means by ‘direct investments’. Does he have in mind productive investments or some other form of investments? The British imperialists’ use of the term ‘direct investments’ is highly unsatisfactory. According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), any British company that holds a certain percentage of shares in an overseas company is a direct foreign investor. This gives the false impression that British banks, decidedly usurious institutions, engage in productive investments when they open up branches in the Third World, or when they hold shares in overseas companies that are tied to, or have their origin in, usury capital. And besides, it is misleading for Michaels to counterpose a type of imperialism (in this instance, usury imperialism) to a form of capital (so-called ‘direct investments’).

In his analysis of imperialism, Lenin drew the distinction between different imperialist types. For example, he wrote: ‘Unlike British colonial imperialism, French imperialism might be termed usury imperialism. In the case of Germany, we have a third type; colonies are inconsiderable, and German capital invested abroad is divided most evenly between Europe and America.’ (Vol 22 p243) (As an industrially powerful country that plundered others without colonising them, the USA was a prime example of the ‘third type’. (See Vol 31 p448))

In my work Modern-day Kautskyism, I explained how and why Britain underwent the transition from colonial imperialism to usury imperialism. (See www.rosclar.webspace.virgin

media.com) Rather than counterpose a type of imperialism to a form of capital, Michaels should have explained that the imperialists’ so-called ‘direct investments’ in the Third World are indissolubly bound up with the imperialists’ usurious activities.

None of the above detracts from the undoubted merits of Alvaro Michaels’ article. Instead of his puzzling comment, he could simply have written: ‘Despite Brazil’s industrial growth, the country has not escaped the clutches of the imperialist usurers.’ Whether or not it is correct to characterise the European Union, Japan and the US as usury imperialist types is another question.

Alec Abbott

London


Response to Alec Abbott

Comrade Abbott’s sharp eye helps us all. The sentence was intended to read ‘Brazil cannot prevent the continued imposition of usury capital on top of the scheme of direct investments’. The spoiled aim of the sentence had been to indicate the growing proportion of money flooding into Brazil in the form of usury capital which searches directly for interest, discount and fee opportunities, rather than directly industrial, commercial and merchanting prospects. The imperialist extension of its banking infrastructure into weaker economies promotes the former by fraternising, bullying and finally merging with the latter’s forms of capital.

Abbott is quite right then to draw out the further question of what is meant by ‘direct investment’.  The reporting language used by imperialism does indeed obscure its actions. The?OECD Benchmark Definition of Foreign Direct Investment?(4th edition, 2008) provides the global standard for bourgeois direct investment statistics, and so for the ONS. Thus the UN and its bodies have accepted a 10% foreign shareholding as the point at which such paper claims magically become ‘foreign direct investment’, seemingly  a helping hand in ‘development’, and not what it is, an anonymous stranglehold on existing sources of wealth by money owners uninterested in anything other than the profit-pumping business.

The task of a short news item on Brazil cannot be to discuss the complex intertwining of the different circuits of industrial, bank, merchant and other forms of capital, but it is well that readers and contributors to FRFI are constantly alert to the contrast between an exact scientific socialist presentation of the class struggle and the deceptive slang used by those reconciled to imperialism.

Alvaro Michaels


Rangzieb Ahmed – harassment continues

The harassment of Rangzieb Ahmed by prison staff at HMP Full Sutton continues, with his mail, in particular, being tampered with and frequently going astray. The most recent letter he sent FRFI had been ripped open before reaching us.

Rangzieb’s appeal against his 2008 conviction on terrorism charges was heard at the Royal Courts of Justice at the beginning of December 2010. He and his co-accused, Habib Ahmed, gave evidence by videolink. Rangzieb, who was tortured in Pakistan at the behest of the British security services and Manchester police in 2005, and had three of his fingernails ripped out with pliers, argued that his original conviction was based on an abuse of due process (for a full report on the appeal, much of which was heard in camera, see www.cageprisoners. com/our-work/opinion-editorial/item /923-rangzieb-ahmed-complete-appeal-coverage). The results of the hearing are expected within the next few weeks.

The harassment of Rangzieb intensified in the run-up to his appeal; by 16 December he had made four formal complaints about his letters repeatedly, and he believes deliberately, being misdirected to a prisoner with the same surname on another wing, despite being clearly labelled with his name and prison number. By the fourth incident, after complaining to the wing officer and seeing no improvement, he wrote on 22 November: ‘I feel victimised and bullied... I feel aggrieved. This must stop happening - it has been happening too often’. A senior officer admitted that staff on Rangzieb’s wing had indeed been interfering with his mail: ‘Your letter was sent to the correct wing by the censors’ department. However, for some reason, wing staff sent it to Echo Wing, crossing out the ‘A’ written on the front of the letter and putting in ‘E’...I have now instructed the censors’ department to label your correspondence file, reminding staff to be extra thorough when issuing your mail’. Rangzieb is in little doubt as to what the ‘reason’ might be. A few days later, two more items of correspondence were misdirected. Rangzieb wrote to the governor: ‘I know this is only due to my beliefs and about what I’m in for.’ He points out the seriousness of the harassment: ‘Due to the nature of my conviction and the fact that I am appealing, it concerns me that mistakes like this continually occur, especially as a lot of the time I have very sensitive information contained in my mail that only I should have access to’.

Please write to show support to Rangzieb Ahmed (A6326AC) at HMP Full Sutton, York YO41 1PS.

Cat Wiener

South London


Honorary Fellow sacked for supporting Millbank occupiers

I am a founder member of the University of Kent Law School and Kent Law Clinic and principally responsible for its international reputation as a critical law school. I was appointed an Honorary  Fellow in January 2007 as part of a settlement for breach of contract.

I was interviewed by the media after the Millbank occupation by students opposed to the rise in fees and gave unconditional support to the actions of the students. My comments appeared on the University of Kent’s Centre for Journalism website and in consequence the university demanded the article be taken down. The Centre’s director, Tim Luckhurst, refused to do so.

The university then sought to terminate the Honorary Fellowship and ordered me to remove Kent Law School as the mailing address of the National Critical Lawyers Group (NCLG) (founded in 1987 with this address, see www.nclg.org.uk). I was ordered not to associate myself in any way with Kent Law School and to leave my office with one day’s notice. Kent Law School then suspended the NCLG mailing list of over 3,000 and ordered the removal of NCLG from university internet servers.

Before the suspension, over 60 members of NCLG emailed the Vice Chancellor and Kent Law School head of department protesting strongly at my sacking – the protests came from barristers, solicitors and professors, staff and students at other law schools.

No one in Kent Law School staff and students has dared to say anything about these events, fearing the consequences, although there have been private messages of support. The university is in fascist mode, as are many other universities at this time.

I have received limited support from my union UCU, consisting of one visit to the Vice Chancellor who refused to talk. The union has failed to take any other action. The student union has a no victimisation policy but has also failed to support me, even though I was the legal adviser to the magnificent Kent occupiers who kept their occupation going from 8 December to 5 January.

UCU legal committee is meeting on 4 February to consider whether to support me legally, but this is not the best option.

I am a supporter of the RCP – now the Spiked Group – but have received no support whatsover from my former comrades; one at Kent Law School has worked actively against me. The SWP know about these events but they have so far failed to give any support. Similarly Dave Nellist of the Socialist Party and the Coalition of Resistance, including Clare Solomon, have not supported me.

The university has cancelled our booking for the NCLG bi-annual conference in March at Kent University and we have found it impossible to get a booking in London. SOAS accepted our booking then cancelled under pressure from some of their law professors. I suspect the NCLG has been blacklisted.

I would like to thank FRFI for their comradely support.

In solidarity and onwards to a better world,

Ian Grigg-Spall

Canterbury


Impressed by FRFI

I am active in Stop the War and Palestine movements locally and have been for a long time. I run a street stall periodically in Yeovil and Sherborne for the local Stop the War group and I am also a member of Unite.

I am impressed by the RCG’s progress in applying Marxism-Leninism to the problems of revolution in this country at this time. The article in FRFI 218 on the trade union movement was very good – several workers here thought it was spot-on. I am looking forward to studying your paper and would like to sell FRFI in this area.

JOHN BURBIDGE

Dorset


A selection of prisoners’ seasonal greetings...

Just want to wish you all the best for 2011. Please know I’m grateful to you all for your ongoing support. Till walls fall...

SATPAL RAM (A4442AL), HMP Garth

Let me send all of you positive, healthy and hopeful Red Season’s and New Year’s greetings. 2011 will certainly be a year of struggle. Let’s hope and keep working for some people’s victories. We recently finished issue 17 of 4SM (www.4strugglemag.org) Lots on Lebanon and Marilyn Buck. Let us know if you’re interested in getting a small bundle. Keep up your positive and important work. Amandla!

JAAN LAAMAN

USP Tucson, Arizona, US

‘We must not abandon hope while the aspiration for freedom remains.’ Season’s greetings and many thanks for the paper throughout the year.

TONY HYLAND

For the Republican prisoners on E2 landing, Portlaoise Gaol, Ireland

 

Egypt - a victory salute

egypt

The anger and courage of the Egyptian protesters has won a great victory in forcing former President Mubarak to resign on 11 February after 18 days of continuous struggle on Maidan Al Tahrir, Cairo (Liberation Square) and in cities across the country. Egyptian protesters in their millions were unwavering in their determination to remove Mubarak. They refused to be fooled or to be threatened by the President, his newly-appointed Vice President, the armed forces or thugs unleashed on the streets – instead the mobilisations increased to such a scale that they threatened even the viability of the army, forcing the Egyptian military high command and the US government to tell Mubarak he had to go.

After the protesters declared that 4 February was to be the Day of Departure, government-paid forces tried to disperse them by violence. On 2 February protesters were attacked, including with live ammunition, resulting in 1,500 people injured and three deaths, but the attackers were repulsed and defeated. According to Human Rights Watch, at least 302 people have been killed in Egypt since 25 January 2011 (in Cairo, Alexandria, and Suez).

 

Read more ...

Unite: sectarian manoeuvres / FRFI 218 Dec 2010 / Jan 2011

FRFI 218 December 2010/January 2011

On 21 November Unite union members elected a new General Secretary, Len McCluskey. Unite advertises itself as ‘a democratic and campaigning union’ but a recent experience in my Newcastle branch meeting gives an indication of why only 16% of members voted in the election of their General Secretary.

As a worker with no active branch, in August I decided to transfer to Newcastle Central branch. In the last year the branch has donated funds to many progressive campaigns, amongst them Rock Around the Blockade, Youth Fight for Jobs, the North East Anarchist and Working Class Book Fayre, Tyneside Community Action Against Racism and the Northern March Against Racism on 20 November. The branch also funded a coach to the rally outside the TUC conference to put pressure on the leadership to take action against the cuts. My experience, both on the coach and in my first branch meeting was of a non-sectarian and democratic branch leadership.

Any illusions in union democracy that anyone could have had were quickly shattered during my second branch meeting on 19 November. There I witnessed a political attack on two progressive independent trade unionists, the branch chair and secretary, by a block of prominent Labour Party members and supporters with the aim of replacing them. The attack was led by Jeff Tate, a paid union official who is apparently also allowed to be a lay member of the branch. How an employee of an organisation can also be represented by that same organisation is beyond me, since if Unite mistreated him as an employee they would also have to defend him as a member. Other members present included two Labour councillors.

Under the cover of an undated, unsigned and incorrectly addressed memo from the outgoing General Secretary, the Labour block claimed new elections were required immediately. The branch chair, Jimmy Warne, clearly explained to members that election terms are for two years and showed us minutes of the elections that had been held only a year ago. However, when the minutes were shown, the arguments of the executioners changed rapidly, instead claiming that elections held in ‘incorrect’ years are equivalent to by-elections in local councils and need to be contested the following year.

Since none of the members of the branch had been informed that elections would be taking place, there was no chance of a democratic election occurring.

A block of people had been drafted in to ensure the removal of two independent activists and replace them with reactionary Labour Party members. We now have a branch where the secretary is a Labour councillor, Helen McStravick, and where the chair is also a Labour councillor, Lesley Spillard, who in her election campaign endorsed a movement against a Traveller site being set up in North Tyneside.

ANNIE

Newcastle

 

Thank you

I write to show my appreciation for all your kindness and support during my time of difficulty. We need more people like you who are actively trying to help people like me. Please continue with all your good work, because it will have a benefit in the end.

RANGZIEB AHMED A6326AC

HMP Full Sutton

Rangzieb Ahmed’s appeal against his conviction for terrorism begins at the High Court in London on 30 November. For more about his case see page 13.

Under surveillance

I’m writing to you because for the last few years my family have been under some kind of surveillance. I don’t know exactly what organisation it is but what they have been doing to us amounts to sheer harassment and abuse.

We are being followed wherever we go and I suspect our emails and mobile phones are monitored and our homes are bugged. I know they come to our homes when we are not in – I’ve come home to find the front door open with no sign of a break-in – tamper with our goods, you know, things have been just slightly moved and documents have gone missing. Once I found the box for my house alarm had been ripped out from the wall. Sometimes cars draw up outside and there’s someone there, just watching – but the moment I get a camera out, they drive off.

Sometimes I think even our neighbours have been asked to keep an eye on what we’re doing – they’ll ask me questions about where I’m going, what time I’ll be back, what route I’m taking. A few months ago I was talking to someone about the floods in Pakistan and he suddenly got out his phone and started recording me. What’s going on is very wrong. I’ve written to my MP about it several times, but never had a reply.

Mohammed Pervaiz

(brother of Rangzieb Ahmed)

Manchester

Independence for West Papua

On 1 December the people of West Papua will celebrate their independence day with mass demonstrations across the country. Tens of thousands will take to the streets in the cities and raise the Morning Star flag, their national symbol of defiance at what they regard as the Indonesian occupation of their country which is supported by Western multinationals. Under Indonesian law, to raise the Morning Star is an act of treason that carries a 15-year jail sentence and many political activists are now in jail for doing just that. On 1 December thousands of people will do it in unison and shout with megaphones in the faces of the police, military and Indonesian administration that they regard as their colonial oppressors for 48 years.

Human rights abuses have been widespread since the United States, with assistance from the UN, orchestrated the trade of West Papua to Indonesia in 1962. West Papuans have never had their political right to a fair referendum on self-determination. The Indonesian government, the US, the UN and the Dutch government have all been complicit in the suppression of the Papuan people and their fundamental rights, whilst the multinational corporations they protect, also complicit in human rights abuses, have been rampantly stealing Papuan land and resources, protected by the Indonesian military that acts with impunity.

A demonstration will be held outside the Indonesian embassy in London in solidarity with the West Papuan people and their right to self-determination on 1 December between 12 noon and 2.30pm; this will be followed by a march to Downing Street to hand in a petition. For more information contact www.freewestpapua.org.

Jonathan Blake

End convictions for joint enterprise

Concerns are being expressed over large numbers of prisoners sentenced to life sentences with long tariffs because of the use of the Joint Enterprise interpretation of the law to convict them. The law of Joint Enterprise was originally brought in 300 years ago to deter those involved in duelling, as the courts could then charge and convict all those present at the scene because they were all complicit in the act.

The police are now using the Joint Enterprise law in the loosest sense to charge and convict groups, often of schoolchildren, for spontaneous acts of violence. The police and the Crown Prosecution Service have portrayed these children as gangsters and brought down the full force of the law on them. Many of the cases should have been no more than manslaughter charges but with the use of media hyperbole and moral panic about ‘feral children’ running around like ‘wolfpacks’ the CJS has caved in to the media and abused the law to prepare cases of murder to gullible juries.

A campaign has been started to highlight this issue and in the first survey some 200 prisoners have replied that they have been unjustly convicted using this law. The Joint Enterprise Not Guilty by Association (JENGbA) campaign co-ordinator, Gloria Morrison says: ‘This is a lazy law and it appears that it is being used as a form of social and ethnic cleansing by the police.’

According to JENGbA, by using Joint Enterprise, the police and lawyers are taking advantage of the law and convicting many people for a crime committed by one person. In a case that will be coming to court early next year, 21 school children will be charged with murder for a fight in Victoria Station which resulted in a death.

JENGbA says that evidence in many cases is often circumstantial, hearsay and sometimes based on mobile phone cell location, as opposed to actual presence, but life sentences with tariffs up to 33 years have been given when the ‘enterprise’ has been classed as gang activity.

One of the most controversial cases involves a blind 15-year-boy who was convicted of murder for his mere presence at the scene of a spontaneous incident. He was not alleged to have taken part and no weapon was used.

The number of Joint Enterprise cases is not recorded, although a recent question in the House of Lords by Herman Ouseley is seeking to uncover just how widespread its use is.

Any prisoners or families and partners of prisoners who were convicted on the basis of Joint Enterprise should get in touch with JENGbA, 27a Old Gloucester Street, London, WC1N 3AX  www.jointenterprise.co

Mohammed R

 

End convictions for joint enterprise/ FRFI 218 Dec 2010 / Jan 2011

Concerns are being expressed over large numbers of prisoners sentenced to life sentences with long tariffs because of the use of the Joint Enterprise interpretation of the law to convict them. The law of Joint Enterprise was originally brought in 300 years ago to deter those involved in duelling, as the courts could then charge and convict all those present at the scene because they were all complicit in the act.

The police are now using the Joint Enterprise law in the loosest sense to charge and convict groups, often of schoolchildren, for spontaneous acts of violence. The police and the Crown Prosecution Service have portrayed these children as gangsters and brought down the full force of the law on them. Many of the cases should have been no more than manslaughter charges but with the use of media hyperbole and moral panic about ‘feral children’ running around like ‘wolfpacks’ the CJS has caved in to the media and abused the law to prepare cases of murder to gullible juries.

A campaign has been started to highlight this issue and in the first survey some 200 prisoners have replied that they have been unjustly convicted using this law. The Joint Enterprise Not Guilty by Association (JENGbA) campaign co-ordinator, Gloria Morrison says: ‘This is a lazy law and it appears that it is being used as a form of social and ethnic cleansing by the police.’

According to JENGbA, by using Joint Enterprise, the police and lawyers are taking advantage of the law and convicting many people for a crime committed by one person. In a case that will be coming to court early next year, 21 school children will be charged with murder for a fight in Victoria Station which resulted in a death.

JENGbA says that evidence in many cases is often circumstantial, hearsay and sometimes based on mobile phone cell location, as opposed to actual presence, but life sentences with tariffs up to 33 years have been given when the ‘enterprise’ has been classed as gang activity.

One of the most controversial cases involves a blind 15-year-boy who was convicted of murder for his mere presence at the scene of a spontaneous incident. He was not alleged to have taken part and no weapon was used.

The number of Joint Enterprise cases is not recorded, although a recent question in the House of Lords by Herman Ouseley is seeking to uncover just how widespread its use is.

Any prisoners or families and partners of prisoners who were convicted on the basis of Joint Enterprise should get in touch with JENGbA, 27a Old Gloucester Street, London, WC1N 3AX  www.jointenterprise.co

Mohammed R

 

Letters / FRFI 217 Oct/Nov 2010

FRFI 217 October/November 2010

Victory for Irish prisoners

On 13 August a resolution was announced to the dispute in Maghaberry, the north of Ireland’s main prison housing political detainees. This followed a summer of protests by Irish Republican Prisoners of War, in response to an increase in prison staff harassment, brutality and strip searches. Protests in support of the POWs had taken place across all the main nationalist areas in Ireland, as well as Glasgow and London. The prisoners’ protest ended after their demands had been conceded in that there would be a phasing out of ‘controlled movement’ and an end to random strip-searching.

The dispute began on Easter Sunday when 28 Republican prisoners barricaded themselves inside the prison canteen in the Roe House part of the prison following weeks of increased brutality. The Republican wing at Roe House is made up of prisoners from different organisations including INLA, CIRA, RIRA and other independent Republicans. It includes convicted and unconvicted prisoners ranging in age from their early twenties to one prisoner in his sixties.

In May, in response to the escalating crisis, relatives and supporters held a meeting in Belfast’s Conway Mill attended by over 500 people. This led to the creation of a new organisation called the Concerned Families and Friends Group, which organised support among the nationalist community.  Demonstrations outside Maghaberry prison  drew hundreds and highlighted the level of community support. Protests were also held at the Prison Ombudsman’s Office and the Alliance Party Office in South Belfast. White-line pickets were held across Belfast and a successful protest march took place in County Armagh.

On 13 August, the Group issued a press release stating: ‘After three weeks of intensive negotiation the British have agreed to change the punitive and vindictive regime Republican prisoners were forced to endure. We are relieved that our prisoners are no longer hostages to the whims of the Loyalist Prison Officers Association and share in the joy and relief of the prisoners’ families who have endured years of stress and turmoil and vindictive harassment at the hands of the screws.’

FRFI welcomes this victory for the prisoners. The number of political prisoners is rapidly increasing, as British repression is stepped up against Republicans; already the pitched battles in Ardoyne against Loyalist incursions on 12 July have led to the arrest of around 40 nationalists, mainly youth. The criminalisation of nationalist resistance to occupation and oppression must be highlighted and opposed by socialists and progressives in Britain and the struggles of prisoners continue to be supported.

Paul Mallon

Glasgow


 

Racial discrimination at UPS

I worked at UPS Ltd for 11 years, with 100% attendance for seven years. Until 2008 I had never received any kind of disciplinary action.

In January 2008 I was asked by a manager to supervise the merging of all the Lynx Courier accounts in our department. In July 2008 another manager, who was a director at Lynx Couriers, became my manager.

In October 2008 I was placed on a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP).  This wasn’t authorised by the HR department. I was the only Black male employed and I am the only person ever to be placed on a PIP.

I hit the £3,000 department monthly target given to me. This was then raised to £4,000 the next month. I was then shouted at and given a written warning for failing this target. I was also given a smudged warning letter.

The warning was then revoked after my appeal but I was advised in writing that I would be placed back on the PIP.

I was signed off with occupational stress because of these events.

I emailed HR to involve the corporate office in my situation. I was then quickly contacted by HR to arrange an emergency meeting. Clearly UPS HR and management were trying to cover up their treatment of me.

In the meeting I was told I should ignore being placed back on the Performance Improvement Plan. At this point I raised a grievance. I again asked for the corporate office details but was given a false HR contact.

I resigned from UPS on 11 March 2010 and took the company to a Race Discrimination Tribunal hearing, which took place on 23 March 2010. I represented myself as I thought it was an open and closed case. However the judge dismissed my case.  I am now appealing.

UPS is an official supporter of the 2012 Olympics and an equal opportunities employer.

Clive Henry

To sign a petition in support of Clive’s case, email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


 

Solidarity with migrants in Calais

I recently visited Calais, where a year ago on 22 September the French riot police attacked and destroyed the migrant camp known as the ‘Pashtun jungle’ (see FRFI 211). The police flattened tents and makeshift shelters, made hundreds of arrests and finally bulldozed the entire area, in an attempt to stop migrants gathering in and around Calais in northern France, waiting for an opportunity to cross the Channel to Britain. Despite the intensity of the attack, it was unsuccessful.

Migrants have congregated in Calais in large numbers since 1999.  In 2002, following sustained pressure from the British Labour government, the French authorities closed the Sangatte Red Cross refugee camp, which had provided food, water and shelter to the men, women and children gathered on the coast.

After the camp was closed, charities and local groups took over providing food. Further material support, as well as political solidarity is provided by the No Borders Network, which has had a small group of mainly British activists permanently stationed in Calais since June 2009.  The activists patrol the squats and ‘jungles’ acting as an early warning for imminent raids and as observers when the raids, evictions and arrests take place.

While I was in Calais there were daily raids on both the ‘Kurdish jungle’ and on ‘Africa House’, a disused factory where a group of predominantly Sudanese, with some Eritrean and Somali, men were spending their nights, gathered around a fire or catching some sleep in corners of the building.  On the first day I was there a large number of migrants were arrested and taken to the detention centre at Coquelles; 15 activists were also arrested, including ones who had simply been photographing the raid.  The police told French-speaking comrades that there’d be an even bigger raid the following day, so most of the people who usually sleep at Africa House got up and left very early in the morning, and we maintained a presence outside the building from 5 to 11am when the police arrived.  This time they didn’t arrest anyone, but evicted the five men who had not managed to flee, following warnings. They were accompanied by some suited officers who were discussing sealing off the building on the pretext of ‘health and safety’. In every raid, bedding that has been acquired or donated is lost and there is a constant struggle to replace it, which will intensify as the winter sets in.

In contrast with Britain, and indeed with the current actions of the French government, I saw no local hostility to either the groups of migrants or the activists, and the people of Calais seemed to be generally supportive and tolerant.

The police are continuing to wage a war of attrition, characterised by daily and nightly raids on the ‘jungles’ and squats across Calais and the surrounding area. No Borders is committed to maintaining a presence there and to documenting and publicising the attacks.  More information can be found on the Calais Migrant Solidarity blog http://calaismigrant solidarity.wordpress.com/

Nicki Jameson

London


 

Memoirs of a Radical Lawyer

Now that Michael Mansfield’s claims regarding me in his Memoirs of a Radical Lawyer have been publicly exposed as lies, would Carol Brickley please explain why she so eulogistically praised the book in the January issue of FRFI?

John Bowden

HMP Perth


Reply

The short review of Michael Mansfield’s book Memoirs of a Radical Lawyer was published in FRFI 212 December 2009/January 2010. In the following issue FRFI published John Bowden’s letter detailing the inaccuracies contained in the book in relation to John’s history and imprisonment. Since then, John’s criticisms of the book have been widely publicised and, despite Mansfield’s shameful attempts to keep the matter private, he has admitted the errors and they have been corrected in the latest edition of his book.

Carol Brickley writes:

When I wrote the review of Mansfield’s Memoir I was not aware of the details of John Bowden’s original conviction for murder, nor of any dispute over Mansfield’s role at Parkhurst prison. Regular readers of FRFI will realise that we do not study the criminal histories of prisoners who contact us. Our main concern is the role that prisoners play in resisting the oppression that the British state routinely unleashes on them. We are well aware of and have documented John’s role in resisting this oppression and I am sure this will continue, regardless of the details of his original trial and imprisonment. I was not aware, therefore, of the errors in Mansfield’s book. If I had been, certainly I would have drawn them to the attention of FRFI readers.

These errors do not, however, alter the fact that Mansfield has played a progressive role as a barrister over many years. Despite being a well-paid middle class servant of British ‘justice’, and unlike prominent members of his profession and even of his own chambers (Vera Baird, for instance), he has chosen to play a role which has helped many people on the receiving end of oppressive treatment by the British state. For that reason his role should be acknowledged and recorded. Like resisting prisoners, good barristers deserve to be recognised for their part in the struggle.

Thank you

Having recently been discharged from hospital, I just wanted to thank everybody at FRFI for all the ‘get well’ cards and letters of support. I’m truly grateful to you all for your relentless support.

Please convey my heartfelt thanks for everybody for taking the time to write to me. I’m indebted to you all.

‘Till all walls fall’, respect, love and power.

Satpal Ram

HMP Garth


 

Prison staff seg unit violence

In March, I was attacked at Swinfen Hall Young Offenders Unit (YOI)’s segregation unit by three members of staff who punched me in the face, used nose distraction techniques and threatened to break my arm. Despite it being captured on CCTV I now find myself due to stand trial at Stafford Crown Court on two counts of ABH.

In July I was again assaulted, this time in Reading YOI seg unit. At around 7am I was informed I would be going to HMP Woodhill in a few minutes. I told the Senior Office I didn’t want to go. He gave the other staff an order. I was then attacked by at least six officers, punched in the face, poked in the eye and nose distraction techniques used. I was pinned on the floor of the cell, placed in handcuffs and carried out of the cell.  One officer even grabbed me by my genitals. Outside the cell I was again pinned on the floor, carried outside to the van and pinned down for a third time whilst a second set of handcuffs were put on. I was held down until I got to HMP Woodhill. On arrival I had all my injuries noted by health care and I put in an application to see the Police Liaison Officer. I reported the assault but am yet to hear from Reading police. Unfortunately staff get away with assaulting prisoners by claiming they were assaulted first. Very rarely do the police take prisoners’ allegations seriously or investigate them and when they do it’s always the same outcome – no further action.

In October 2006 Cambridgeshire police set up an investigation into assaults by staff on prisoners in the seg unit at HMP Whitemoor  – I’m trying to find out the outcome. I’ve heard that prisoners have reported being physically and racially abused in the seg unit at HMP Long Lartin. I don’t agree with Colin Moses [Prison Officers Association chair] that prisons are being liberalised but I do agree that there needs to be a proper investigation, not just of the events at HMP Frankland, but of all segregation units in the high security estate – not a whitewash as Mr Moses suggests but a proper investigation by the Prison Service, the police and prisoners’ representatives.

While on occasion prisoners do assault staff; this is normally only after months of abuse, physical and psychological. Mr Moses needs to accept that his staff do assault prisoners out of sheer spite, boredom and on occasion for sexual gratification. After the events of 13 March 2010 [for which a prisoner faces charges of attacking staff at Frankland] Mr Moses said he’d like to see the Prison Service adopt a zero tolerance to violence. What he doesn’t mention is the abuse which that prisoner had been subjected to – and which he continues to suffer.

The close supervision centre system has been proved not to work. These units are  psychological torture chambers designed to mentally break prisoners the system has decided to make an example out of. It is designed around humiliating and degrading treatment of prisoners and needs to be closed down.

I urge all your readers to keep challenging false allegations made by staff and to stand up against the bullies who abuse their position.

Ross Macpherson A6791AD

HMP WOODHILL

 

LETTERS / FRFI 216 Aug/Sep 2010

FRFI 216 August/September 2010

John Bowden v Michael Mansfield – secrets and lies

I received the enclosed letter from Lawrence Kershen today, which makes very interesting reading.

Dear Mr Bowden

As agreed I passed on your draft to Mr Mansfield and he has suggested the following changes:

‘In my recently published Memoirs of a Radical Lawyer, I made certain references to John Bowden, a life sentence prisoner whom I defended at his original trial in 1982 and which [sic] I described in my book as a central figure in a siege at Parkhurst Prison in 1983.

‘In the narrative describing the siege at Parkhurst I wrote that John Bowden was convicted of a series of murders that involved “carving up homosexuals and winos while they were still alive and freezing the cuts”.

‘This is in fact untrue and is the result of a mistaken recollection on my part. There were other serious charges on the indictment, but there was never any claim or suggestion during John Bowden’s trial in 1982 that he or his co-defendants were responsible for more than one murder or that John Bowden had ever targeted a specific group of people for the violence that I described in my book.

‘This error was entirely unintentional, and has been corrected for all future editions of the book. I wish to apologise for this mistake particularly as the overall thrust of the narrative is intended to provide support for John Bowden’s stance on prison conditions.’

We also need to be clear about the status of whatever version is agreed. So far all our discussions are confidential. Mr Mansfield is willing for an agreed document to be made available to the relevant authorities eg the Parole Board.

He would not want it to be published eg in a newsletter or on the web. I would be grateful for your comments on this.

In case I haven’t made it explicit, my intention is that if you and he are able to reach agreement about this matter, it will be in full and final settlement of the issues between you, and no other action will be entered into. I hope this is your understanding as well…

Of course there is no possible way that I’m going to agree to Kershen’s or Mansfield’s condition that I keep quiet about Mansfield’s acknowledgement that what he wrote in his book about me was untrue.

Can you believe the cheek of the man? So it’s OK for him to write and publish blatant lies that are then distributed around the world, but I must keep it quiet and private when finally he admits that what he wrote about me was?a load of shite.

I’ve now written to Kershen letting him know that I will indeed be telling people that Mansfield has admitted telling lies!

John Bowden

HMP Perth


Why ‘they’ owe ‘us’

Steve Palmer’s article in the last FRFI (‘Holding the world to ransom: who owns the money?’) is good. However, I think there is more to be got out of this. The question was ‘To whom do “we” owe the money?’ The real question should have been ‘Why do we owe them?’

The answer should be we don’t owe them anything. Their existence is justified by theft alone (apologies to Luther). What we see is the result of a mechanism which intensifies daily the extent and intensity of its theft from the working masses. By law, and so force, these arrangements now aim to strip the weakest and poorest of what they have in order to patch up a dysfunctional system that cannot meet its own demands. Necessarily it threatens the middle classes too, for they have no real social base, only a political one.

So we could move from your article to ‘Part two: Why they owe us’, to explain again the basic mechanism of exploitation and the barrier that capital presents to itself.

Paul Bullock

London


My kind of newspaper

Ahh! The newspaper FRFI was a pleasure to read! I learned things I had no idea about before. This is definitely my kind of newspaper!!! It’s really good, you can tell a lot of work has gone into it.

Anam
Manchester


Save the life of Mumia Abu-Jamal

We are launching a UK campaign to save the life of Mumia Abu-Jamal, who has been on death row in Philadelphia for almost 30 years. We want to make alliances with other organisations and gain as much publicity as possible to build the campaign. We have up-to-date information from Robert R Bryan, Mumia’s lead council, who spoke at a well-attended meeting in Brixton that we organised and at which a member of the RCG also spoke.We showed the film about Mumia, In prison my whole life, in Brixton in July, introduced by the film’s narrator, Will Francome.

We are following this with a demo on 28 July 4-8pm outside the US Embassy. We hope you can attend and publicise this event.

Mumia’s legal team are currently engaged in pivotal litigation in the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, Philadelphia. At stake is whether Mumia will be executed or granted a new jury trial. Two years ago the federal court found that the trial judge misled the jury, rendering the proceedings constitutionally unfair. But in January 2010 the US Supreme Court vacated that victorious ruling and ordered that the case be again reviewed by the Court of Appeals. Their initial brief will be submitted on 28 July (hence the date of the demo). At issue is the death penalty.

There is therefore a great deal of urgency. We look forward to your support.

Keeley Mudd

Free Mumia Abu-Jamal Defence Campaign UK


Frankland brutality

I read Eric Allison’s article in FRFI 215 about brutality in Frankland prison. I’ve had my own troubles down the block there… The screws are like bulls and are pumped full of steroids. It was the only prison I saw where hypodermic needles were used for anything other than narcotics, and some cons had the screws bringing them steroids and needles.

I was assaulted down the block when I went to collect my dinner and returned the rice pudding because it was solid, and they construed that as me throwing it back at them (it did fall off the table, but not intentionally). All the way back to my cell I had them pushing and shoving me down the stairs and when we got to the rest of the cells I started shouting that they could ‘assault me all you want! There are six of you and one of me, but all it will take is one go from me and one of you is going to lose an eye! How do you fancy that?’ I wanted the rest of the cons to hear what was going on in case I needed witnesses.

On another occasion I was sitting next to a black prisoner and the screws were standing outside his door making ‘monkey’ noises. It might not seem like a lot but that was in the days when we had a bit of control of the system. As soon as the IRA lads got repatriated the screws took control of the system again, so it must be horrendous now.

I heard too that a Muslim prisoner in Frankland received FRFI but with that article torn out. Reminiscent of the days when Irish POWs received copies of AP/RN with all mention of prison and the liberation struggle torn out, leaving just the Gaelic football section!

Mo Riaz

Via Facebook


Remanded and acquitted?

I am aware that your paper is often read by former prisoners. I am hoping to hear from any ex-prisoner who has been on remand but who was acquitted at trial, to learn about your experiences of what it is like to be in prison on remand when a conviction does not follow.

I would be grateful if you could contact me in confidence if you would be prepared to share your experiences.

Scott Lomax

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Prison censorship

I write following my previous letter in April 2010. That letter gave an accurate description of events in HMP Frankland. As you published an article in your June issue about this, I was wondering if you actually received my letter as nothing from it was used and I received no response to it.

I have been having serious problems with my mail here at Woodhill and so would be interested to know if you got it or not.

I am willing to provide further details for publication if you could arrange for someone to interview me.

You might like to know that the IPCC is looking into HMP Frankland and Durham police’s stance that it is not within its jurisdiction whenever a prison officer is reported to have committed a crime.

Kevan Thakrar A4907AE

HMP Woodhill

FRFI did not receive Kevan’s previous letter and can only assume it was held up by prison censorship.


Support Irish political prisoners

The continuing deterioration of conditions for Irish Republican political prisoners in Maghaberry Prison in the north of Ireland has led to protests inside and outside the prison. Over 500 people attended a meeting at Conway Mill in Belfast on 29 May; on 4 July, hundreds demonstrated outside the prison itself. Support groups are being set up in all of the main nationalist areas, as well as in Glasgow and London. One of these, the Republican Prisoners Support Group in Derry, is made up of members of the Irish Republican Socialist Party, the 32 County Sovereignty Movement, the Republican Network for Unity and a number of individuals.

Spokesperson for the group, ex-blanketman, Thomas ‘Dixie’ Elliott, described the current suffering of prisoners: ‘In Maghaberry prison in 2010 Republican prisoners are living in the most inhumane conditions imaginable. The prisoners are locked up 23 hours per day and have no access to canteen or education facilities. For the hour that they are allowed out of their cells they are stripsearched, their movements are controlled by three prison officers to each prisoner, they have to shower and are allowed one five-minute phone call home to family members. This is totally unacceptable. As a direct consequence the prisoners have…for a number of months been partaking in what can only be described as a ‘dirty protest’ in which their bodily waste has been dumped on the floors of their cells and on the landings. The prison authorities have responded by sealing the bottom of the cell doors with rubber strips to prevent this waste leaking onto the landings and to keep the waste in the cells with the prisoners. This waste is now accumulating and in a number of cells is one to two inches deep on the floor. It is in these horrific conditions that the prisoners are forced to eat every meal.’

Thomas Elliott went on to detail the aims of the new group: ‘to distribute information and build awareness of the situation in Maghaberry. We are also intent on pushing for a solution. We believe that the implementation of the prisoners’ two basic demands will go a long way to resolving the situation and bringing about a satisfactory solution. The prisoners have called for the end to controlled movement and for the end to strip searches and we fully support them in these calls. We do see a solution but we also see a deep need for the people to come out and help us to highlight the current conditions.’

Speaking on Radio Free Ireland, recently-released Republican prisoner Gary Donnelly likened Maghaberry to ‘an open sewer’. It can be heard online www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Dds2tm5p8c

To be kept up to date with the growing protests and events in support of the prisoners visit http://friendsofcolinduffy.com

Victory to the political prisoners!

Paul Mallon

Glasgow

Picket the Ministry of Justice in solidarity with Republican political prisoners, Saturday 7 August,

2pm: 102 Petty France, Westminster, London (nearest tube St James’s Park)

 

Eric Allison's comments and Pauline Campbell's letter to FRFI

Eric Allison writes: I was fortunate enough to consider Pauline Campbell as a close friend. Since her death, I have been inundated with phone calls from people bereft at her passing - from a woman in her late seventies, who joined Pauline on the campaign trail and mourns the loss of a passionate and dedicated leader, to a young ex-prisoner, who viewed her as a surrogate mother. Because, despite her personal grief at the loss of an only child, Pauline always found room to console and comfort the relatives of others who had died in custody and to guide them through the legal minefield that obstructs the search for the truth.

Few in the new Ministry of Justice will mourn her passing. She met the criminal justice system head on and became a constant, sharp thorn in its side. Her direct action, in blocking the progress of a wretched sweat box into the prison she was demonstrating outside created a huge dilemma for the system; should it prosecute her and make her a martyr; or release her without charge, knowing full well that, come the death of another woman in prison, Pauline would be back, to confront the system at full tilt? When she was arrested, the police would often employ dirty tactics, such as keeping her in a cell until the early hours of the morning. (For the heinous offence of obstructing the highway) If they thought would deter her from demonstrating in the future they badly miscalculated her strength and determination.

During the five years that Pauline took on the system, it was easy to forget that she was a grieving mother, who had lost her only child. They say that time is the great healer, but in Pauline’s case, the pain of her loss must have attacked her every day; for every single day that she carried the banner, was a day that her grief was stirred up yet again. I suspect that, in the end, she was simply very tired.

Rest in peace Pauline, you were a true warrior.


CPS backs down

My letter published in FRFI No. 202, April/May 2008 ("Protest against prison deaths") urged readers to write to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) in Crewe, Cheshire, to question how the prosecution against me could possibly be in the public interest.

Following written representations to both the CPS and the Attorney General, I can report that the charge against me has been dropped, and my three-day criminal trial scheduled for July 2008 has been cancelled. I am aware that FRFI readers have written letters to protest against this senseless prosecution, and I should like to place on record my thanks to those who have put pen to paper on my behalf.

This prosecution should never have reached court in the first place. Both the CPS and the court were made aware that I am a bereaved mother, and that my only child had died at the hands of the state. This particular attempt to criminalise and punish me was especially cruel, as I was arrested outside Styal the prison responsible for my daughter's death in 2003. Lisa Marley, a young mother held on remand at Styal, died on 23 January 2008, and I was arrested and charged with obstructing the highway - a charge which I denied - at the demonstration to protest against her death.

Aside from the vindictive nature of this prosecution, the case has raised a number of issues and, for reasons of openness and transparency, it is important to highlight this iniquity.

All along, the Crown had argued that the case was in the public interest. At each of my three court appearances, and in a three-page letter to the CPS in March 2008, I argued to the contrary, and challenged their assertion that the case had passed the public interest test. After three months they caved in, but it is unclear to me why it took so long for them to see the light.

The case also highlights difficulties defendants face when applying for legal aid. My application for legal aid had been refused, apparently on the grounds that it had not met the criteria necessary to meet the 'interests of justice' test. At each hearing, I had to attend court without a solicitor, which was enormously stressful. I am not a lawyer, and have had no legal training. It is an affront to the principle of access to justice that anyone should have to stand criminal trial, and attend pre-trial reviews, without legal representation. Yet whenever I attended court, the Crown was represented by a lawyer. I fail to understand how a defendant in a criminal trial can adequately represent themselves. It defies common sense. How can justice be achieved when there is clear inequality of arms?

There is a growing loss of confidence in our criminal justice system, which is hardly surprising. When laid bare, the system is frequently revealed as unjust and unfair, and it is crucial that people speak out against this injustice.

But bringing pressure to bear on the authorities can and does work, as my case illustrates. The idiom 'the pen is mightier than the sword' tells us that words and communication are more powerful than wars and fighting. When faced with a prosecution, and an attempt to criminalise me, I will always fight my corner with strong words, and an even stronger determination to ensure that justice prevails.

Pauline Campbell Bereaved mother of Sarah Elizabeth Campbell, 18, who died on 'suicide watch' in Styal Prison's segregation unit, 2003

 

Spanish political prisoner writes...

We have received the last four issues of your newspaper, Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! with great pleasure, since it brings us important information concerning the deepening inter-imperialist rivalries and their consequences.
You will be interested to know we now have a date for the judicial farce/court case for the PCE(r) activists and GRAPO fighters who have been detained since November 2000: from 12 June to 4 July. We have sent you some leaflets we have put out to mobilise, through our limited means, all anti-fascists and democrats to join us in demonstrating outside this travesty of justice and turn the event into an international tribunal against imperialism, against capitalism and against fascism.

JAIME SIMON QUINTELA
Centro Penitenciario, Sevilla II, Spain

Free the Paris 7!
Demonstrate against the farcical trial of the PCE(r)
12 June-4 July, outside the Palais de Justice de Paris, 4, Boulevard du Palais, 75001 Paris, France.
For further information contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

FRFI 173 June / July 2003

 

Can printing dollars stave off US economic crisis?

FRFI 173 June / July 2003

Thanks to David Yaffe for his excellent article in FRFI 171. As he points out, the USA needs a constant influx of foreign capital to maintain the overinflated and privileged lifestyles of the US American masses.

Such an influx should be impossible, considering that, since 1970, the US produces less and less basic substantial goods and the weakness of the US dollar with respect to the euro. ‘Should’ be that way, if free trade governed, but not if the neighbourhood’s only armed bully has anything to do with it.

Absent from the article, I suggest, is the fact that the US dollar is today’s ‘preferred currency of international exchange’. So the US needs no foreign capital influx, but only to set the presses rolling.

 

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Act now to support Alan Porter!

My name is Alan Porter and I am from Scotland. I am serving a life sentence in a prison in England. I am trying to persuade the Prison Service of England and Wales to transfer me to a Scottish prison. I think that as a Scottish national this should be my right but they are refusing to accept my application. I am therefore writing to ask for your help.

I was born on 10 December 1955 and brought up in Renfrewshire. I lived in Scotland until 1985, when I moved down to England. Four years later on 3 July 1989 Lewes Crown Court sentenced me to life imprisonment for killing a man in Brighton. It was a stupid, senseless act. I have never denied committing this murder or tried to blame anyone else for it, and of course I regret it terribly.

My life at the time was a bit chaotic, to say the least, and even part of the time I’d spent in England prior to getting life had been spent in prison for another offence. My intention was always to return to Scotland, where I had a council house that had previously been my grandfather’s. I started my sentence at HM Prison Wormwood Scrubs. I petitioned for a transfer then but it was refused.

 

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