Twelve days ago, two hundred fifty British police officers raided an East London home at 4am. Two brothers of Bangladeshi origin were arrested. Police shot one of them in chest. The men were jailed for over a week, accused of being involved in a biological terror plot. Then they were released without charge. We speak with British human rights attorney, Gareth Peirce. [includes rush transcript]
Twelve days ago, two hundred fifty British police officers–some dressed in biochemical suits — raided an East London home at four in the morning. Two brothers of Bangladeshi origin were arrested. Police shot one of them in chest. The men were jailed for over a week, accused of being involved in a biological terror plot. Then they were released without charge. And now Scotland Yard and the London police are apologizing for what happened.
On Tuesday, the brothers — twenty-three-year-old Mohammed Abdul Kahar and twenty-year-old Abul Koyair — spoke about the raid for the first time.
Mohammed said that on the morning of the raid he was awoken by the screams of his brother. At first he thought it was a robbery. Moments later he was shot in the chest. Mohammed Abdul Kahar and Abul Koyair spoke at a press conference on Tuesday.
- Excerpts of press conference by Mohammed Abdul Kahar and Abul Koyair.
Hours later a London Metropolitan police official said, "I apologize for the hurt that we may have caused."
To talk about this ordeal, we speak with Gareth Peirce, one of Britain’s best-known human rights attorneys. She is representing the family.
- Gareth Peirce, one of Britain’s best-known human rights attorneys.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Mohammed Abdul Kahar speaking at a news conference on Tuesday.
MOHAMMED ABDUL KAHAR: Me and my brother screaming "No." And by that time, I could see the shot wound in my chest. And I was begging him, "please, please, I can’t breathe," and he just kicked me in my face. He kept on saying, saying "shut the [censored] up." I said "please, I can’t breathe." And he just — one of the officers slapped me on the face and he’s saying "just shut the [censored] up, stay there, stay there." And at that moment I thought that they’re going to either shoot me again, or they’re going to start shooting my brother. So I just laid there on the staircase for about a minute or something. And then I’m just hearing them shouting "secure the room, secure the room." And at that moment, I still didn’t know it was the police. Because they never said a word about police. All they said was "secure the room, secure the room."
AMY GOODMAN: Mohammed Abdul’s brother, Abdul Koyair, said police threatened to shoot him as well.
ABUL KOYAIR: They grabbed me away from my brother, they dragged me down the stairs, and they were hitting me. And they were telling me to "shut the [censored] up." And they took me outside, handcuffed me, and put me on my knees. And told me to face the ground. At that time, there was about three officers with guns surrounding me. They were pointing at me. And at that time, I kept on saying to the officer, "please, tell me, is my brother ok? Is my family ok?" And they told me to just shut up.
AMY GOODMAN: Mohammed Abdul Kahar also criticized the police for not apologizing for shooting and detaining an innocent man.
MOHAMMED ABDUL KAHAR: I work very hard, I work over 50, 60 hours a week. And to come and just — into my house like that and accusing me of this, shooting me in my chest and kept on saying that I’m a terrorist. That, it hurt. I want, I want them — the least for them to do is apologize. I’ve never heard from no one. No one even had the decency to even phone us to say that we apologize that this happened. Even when I was getting discharged or getting released from the police station. Not even a word of sorry from the head officer or anyone that was dealing with the case.
AMY GOODMAN: Hours later, a London metropolitan police official said, quote, "I apologize for the hurt that we may have caused." To talk about the ordeal of these two British men, we’re joined on the phone by Gareth PEIRCE, one of Britain’s best-known human rights attorneys. She’s representing the family. We welcome you to Democracy Now!, Gareth Peirce.
GARETH PEIRCE: Hello.
AMY GOODMAN: It’s good to have you with us. What are you doing now about this situation?
GARETH PEIRCE: In a way, I think that the two brothers did the most substantial thing that could be done, far more than lawyers could ever do. They extremely courageously faced the press yesterday. Hundreds of press there, daunting for anyone to do. What shone through is their decency and honesty and integrity and innocence. And there they were, two clearly devout young Muslim men. British to the bone, interested in all of the things that all other British lads their age are interested in. A very British family in a way that might strike a chord with middle England. The cap was missing after the police had taken over the house for a week. The runner beans and the sweet peas in the garden had all been dug up by the police, and the house vandalized.
And Kahar, the older brother who was shot, works for the Royal Mail, as a postman. His brother works for a supermarket and had applied to become a policeman. The application form had been taken away by the police with all the other family’s documents and is still missing, like the cat. So, better than anyone else could ever have done, it says, here we are, the supect community, we are innocent. We are deserving of total respect and of lawfulness, not lawlessness on the part of the police.
And they were asked a number of provocative questions intended, I think, to be not necessarily pleasant. And they dealt with everything in an extraordinarily reasonable, tolerant, and forgiving way. Which I think the rest of us could never have managed to do were we in their place. So, in terms of an important statement that this made at a very difficult moment of political history in this country, I think those two young men made something that was more than substantial in the way of a contribution.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Gareth Peirce in London, a news conference this week held by the brothers after the raid on their home, one of the brothers shot. What is the response in Britain now to what has come out? The fact that they were charged — the police said they were going to be involved in some kind of biological terror attack, and yet, never charged them, and released them.
GARETH PEIRCE: It’s a very odd thing, the whole enormity of a massive armed raid and immediate publicity put out by the police, that this was suspected chemical warfare, a suicide operation about to be mounted on specific intelligence. But then, almost uniquely, the police account appeared to be faltering from the moment it began, maybe because of a turf war between police and security agencies. I don’t know, but it began to be shown quickly in the newspapers, this raid was based upon information given by a single informant which was thought to be credible. I have never heard before, discussion of an informant as a person. Usually its said there was intelligence. But it was as if already there was certain concern that all was not well and as the week went on, then the uncertainty grew.
However, within the police station, a man who had been shot through the chest was discharged from the hospital, wholly prematurely, and the hospital bed taken to a cell in Paddington Green police station. It was grotesque, a grotesque experience, in which the police never once asked either of the brothers about chemical weapons, about suicide attempts, about anything that they might have been suspected of having. The police were begged, for heaven sake, "tell us why we were in the police station?" "Why did you arrest us?" "Who was it who said this?" And an answer came there none. They were just suddenly released.
AMY GOODMAN: Gareth Peirce, before we leave, I wanted to ask you about the suicides at Guantanamo on Saturday. You’ve represented a number of prisoners at Guantanamo — Moazzam Begg, also you’re involved with the Tipton three, who have been speaking out. The U.S. military said that their deaths, the suicides, were a case of asymmetric warfare and a publicity stunt. Your response?
GARETH PEIRCE: It’s a grotesque, a grotesque comment to have made. Chilling in its inappropriateness. We do still represent British residents there, not British nationals, but long-term British residents, who we’re fighting in the courts to get our government to do something to bring them back and when I heard three had committed suicide, I was, of course, horrified to think, was it the three men I represent? I spoke to one of the three Tipton lads who were released, and he said, "they have to open the doors to Guantanamo, they have to let in the human rights organizations, and if they open the doors, that means they will have to let everybody out."
AMY GOODMAN: Are you concerned, if Guantanamo closes, what will happen to people at unknown prisons that are being run by the U.S. around the world, at the so-called black sites?
GARETH PEIRCE: Of course, there are dozens of secret detentions, and those are probably the most grotesquely torturous of all. People have disappeared. It is a terrifying black hole that we’ve fallen into, and international laws have fallen into.
AMY GOODMAN: Gareth Peirce, I want to thank you very much for being with us.
GARETH PEIRCE: Thank you, thank you for asking me.
AMY GOODMAN: Gareth Peirce, well-known human rights attorney in Britain and on whom the movie In the Name of the Father was based.