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Issue 200, Friday 16 December 2005 - 15 Dhu al-Qa'dah 1426

Detained for 11 hours for being a Muslim

By Elham Asaad Buaras

A Muslim student has told The Muslim News how he was detained for almost 11 hours under terror laws on July 21, because he didn’t carry an ID.
Explaining how his ordeal began, Ahmed (not his real name) said he was on his way to a local mosque in Goodge Street when he was arrested by plain clothed security officers. Unknown to him at that time there were four attempted bombings, one of which was in the area where he was. Failed devices were found on trains at Oval and Warren Street stations and on a bus in Hackney. The four attempted bombings were taking place exactly two weeks after the deadly July 7, blasts. But for Ahmed it was just another day.
“I was walking from Goodge Street to Warren Street. A crowd had gathered. Something had happened in the area. I stood in the area for a little while to see what was happening.
“As I walked from Warren Street to Tottenham Court Road, I was approached by two armed plain clothed men who showed me their police badges. They quickly told me I had been identified among the crowd standing in Goodge Street. They asked me for an ID. I told them my ID was in my bag which I left in the office. I was searched and was told that they were arresting me under terror charges.”
After initially being taken to Goodge Street police station at 1.30pm, Ahmed was driven to Paddington police station were he says he was placed in a cell for three hours without access to a lawyer or a telephone call. “I didn’t know what to think when I was in the cell. I wasn’t angry at the time. I was just shocked,” said Ahmed. “I was worried about my family. I hadn’t talked on the phone to anyone and they would have been worried about me.”
A “dumbfounded” Ahmed says he was then interviewed and asked about a cheque in his jacket’s pocket. “I told them I was a member of an Islamic society at my University and that it was a fund raising cheque for charity. I think they then took more time to get that looked at.
“The interview was very long. They simply asked me about my whole life story. One of the officers who wrote the statement, wrote the reason I was stopped and arrested was because I looked like an Arab, I didn’t stop when they called my name because I had my walkman on and thirdly because I didn’t carry an ID with me.”
After being interviewed Ahmed says the police took him out of his cell and made him take off his clothes. They searched his clothes, item by item, and this took a couple of hours; finally, they took his mobile. “I think they were having it looked at by specialists. I was given a jump suite to wear,” he said.
It was after he stamped his fingerprints and had mug shots taken that he was informed he was free to leave. “They said I could leave and I was given a verbal apology. They promised me something in writing but I’ve yet to receive anything. I know the only reason I was stopped was because I was a Muslim. I have a slight beard its not very big but you can tell I’m a Muslim.”
He was released at midnight. He had spent almost 11 hours in custody. “They could have shortened my ordeal if they did as I suggested - go to my office get my bag and check my ID - instead, they ignored me and did it the long way.”
Ahmed’s brother told The Muslim News that “the family were extremely anxious,” as they did not know his whereabouts. He said, “We made frantic calls when he didn’t arrive home.” They eventually found out through his colleagues that police officers had gone to his office to get his belongings. When Ahmed’s brother arrived at Paddington police station at 8pm, he says police were “extremely apologetic” over the incident. “The problem is they lied to us. My sister called Paddington (police station) and asked if my brother was there, rather than say ‘yes, he’s here but we can’t give you any information’, they lied and said ‘no he isn’t here.’”
Ahmed’s brother is adamant that “had the family not be proactive,” Ahmed would have spent 24 hours or longer in prison.
Ahmed said many of his fellow Muslim students from his university experienced stop and search police tactics. However, he believes his ordeal was unique among his acquaintances. “I don’t know anyone who went through what I did,” but unfortunately Ahmed doesn’t think he’ll be the last.

Since July 7 bombings, many Muslims have been stopped and searched under Terrorism Act.
People are slowly coming forward with their experiences. The Muslim News has been documenting arrests of innocent Muslims by the police - in London and other parts of the UK. If you - or you know of anyone - have been stopped, detained or your house searched, please email us at:
documentation@muslimnews.co.uk. Please note that all the information will be dealt in confidence. We will not use your name if you do not want to.

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