Great British bungle: damages due to wrongly detained Sheikh Salah

October 1, 2011
Sarah Benton

High Court rules Raed Salah is ‘entitled to damages for wrongful detention’
Memo Press Release

The Middle East Monitor (MEMO) welcomes the High Court ruling that the British government’s detention of Sheikh Raed Salah was illegal during the early part of his detention and that he is entitled to damages during that period.

After wrongfully detaining the Palestinian leader, the Home Secretary unsuccessfully tried to deny him bail. Sheikh Salah successfully applied for and was granted bail by Mr. Justice Stadlen in the High Court in July. Today’s ruling compounds the misguided approach taken towards Sheikh Salah by the British government.

At the High Court, Mr Justice Nicol, granted the leader of the Islamic Movement permission to appeal endorsing the view that Sheikh Salah was right to demand a judicial review into the legality of his detention. Whilst refusing the judicial review on the grounds of policy and legal purpose the Judge ruled that Sheikh Salah was illegally detained and ‘entitled to damages for wrongful detention’.

MEMO’s director, Dr Daud Abdullah said, ‘this important judgment sends a clear message to the political authorities; that the British legal system must not be used as an instrument to suppress fundamental rights and free speech.’

Sheikh Salah’s solicitor Tayab Ali said ‘We welcome the Court’s finding that Sheikh Salah was wrongfully detained and that he should be compensated for that. We are however disappointed that the Judge refused the judicial review in respect of the statutory purpose and policy. This is a worrying first step towards a policy of preventative detention for acts that have not even been contemplated yet’.

Sheikh Raed Salah was arrested from his hotel on 28th June, the night before he spoke in parliament on the subject of Jerusalem. The Israeli lobby in the UK strenuously petitioned the government to do anything ‘to prevent him from attending’. Emails disclosed in Court have revealed that the Home Secretary took just 17 minutes to decide to prevent Sheikh Salah attending and speaking in parliament in response to an unverified and inaccurate advice from the Community Security Trust.

The finding that Sheikh Salah was illegally detained illustrates the careless manner in which the British government dealt with an important and respected leader of the Palestinian movement.

Dr Abdullah said, ‘this vindication of Sheikh Raed means he can in future hold his head high with pride; knowing that two High Court Judges in Britain were willing to correct serious wrongs done against him.’

Sheikh Raed Salah is resolute in his determination to correct the allegations made against him and will now focus his appeal to overturn the deportation order in the First Tier Immigration Tribunal.

Clearly proceedings to date should show the Conservative-led government that it has to act with responsibility and properly verify allegations before it yields to political lobbies set to improperly use the British government for its own political agenda.

May warned of weak case against Sheikh Raed Salah

UK Border Agency officials warned home secretary not to deport Palestinian activist as case was ‘very finely balanced’

David Hearst ,,

The home secretary, Theresa May, was warned by senior officials in the UK Border Agency not to deport a Palestinian activist accused of antisemitism, saying the evidence against him was disputed, open to legal challenge and that the case was “very finely balanced”.

Sheikh Raed Salah, leader of the Northern branch of the Islamic Movement, who has been in Britain, in prison and on bail since his arrest three months ago, will appeal against his deportation before animmigration and asylum tribunal on Monday.

Emails seen by the Guardian, show that May was determined to find a reason to exclude Salah, before the evidence against him had been verified.

Just 17 minutes after receiving a report on the activist, prepared by Michael Whine of the Community Security Trust, a UK charity monitoring antisemitism, Faye Johnson, private secretary to the home secretary, emailed about a parliamentary event Salah was due to attend.

“Is there anything that we can do to prevent him from attending (eg could we exclude him on the grounds of unacceptable behaviour?)” she wrote. Whine’s report said Salah’s record of provocative statements carried a risk that his presence in the UK could have “a radicalising impact” on his audiences.

UK Border Agency officials were dubious. Jon Rosenom-Lanng of the special cases directorate (SCD) wrote to May on 21 June, saying that while there was evidence that would allow the home secretary to exclude Salah on the grounds of unacceptable behaviour, “the disputed underlying evidence could make an exclusion decision vulnerable to legal challenge.”

He concluded: “We assess that this case is very finely balanced.”

After the home secretary signed the order, a second official of the SCD, Andy Smith, restated the agency’s objections. He said the action would prolong Salah’s stay in the UK, raise his profile and give him a credibility he did not currently have. Smith warned of the cost of the case on the agency’s budget, “as it is not a case that would not have been undertaken if the SCD advice had been followed”.

Tayab Ali, Saleh’s solicitor said: “When the secretary of state makes a decision to exclude someone from the UK, it is imperative the correct policy is followed. The home secretary made a decision and then searched for reasons to justify it. Its not for the home secretary to determine who should speak in parliament. This is an attack on parliamentary democracy.”

Saleh’s legal team say the quotes he is alleged to have said and written were doctored to make them sound antisemitic. There is no suggestion that CST doctored the quotes.

The Home Office presented four allegations of antisemitism against him, all drawn from the Israeli press: that Salah wrote a poem in which he described Jews as “criminal bombers of mosques, slaughterers of pregnant women and babies, robbers and germ in all time”; that he promoted martyrdom; that he invoked a blood libel invocation by saying that “blood had been mixed in the dough of Holy Bread” and that he referenced a fake document, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, in saying that a third temple would be build on the ruins of the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.

His lawyers say the poem was made up and the views expressed in it were abhorrent to their client. A second version of the poem has since been presented but with the admission that a reference to Jews was inserted.

In other alleged quotes, words were interjected to change their meaning, said Salah’s lawyers. In the blood libel accusation, the word Jewish was interjected, when the original referred to the murder of Christian and Muslim children during the Spanish inquisition and a part of the speech in which Salah said defended the right of Jewish worship in synagogues deleted.

On the allegation that he promoted suicide bombing by referring to martyrdom, he had been referring to incidents of Palestinian worshipers being martyred or killed at prayer by the Israeli security forces. Salah’s lawyers claim doctored quotes have been repeated by Israel’s press, pro-Israeli websites, two British newspapers and the CST.

Salah has served two terms of imprisonment in Israel, two years for funding proscribed charities and five months for spitting at a police officer during protests in 2007. He has not been convicted of incitement (although a case has been re-opened after the events in London) and the Islamic Movement remains a legal organisation.

A spokesman for the group said: “The Israeli establishment knows what the sheikh has said and they know they have no legal case against him. They have not been shy of pursuing him on other charges.”

Salah was elected mayor of his town Umm al-Falm, an Israeli-Arab city bordering the green line, three times. As a Palestinian with Israeli citizenship, he came to prominence for his defence of the Muslim holy sites and his participation on the Mavi Marmara, the Turkish boat that was stormed last year by Israeli navy as it attempted to break the siege of Gaza.

Salah’s battle against deportation from Britain has prompted support from mainstream secular Palestinians. The prime minister in the West Bank, Salam Fayyad, said the Salah’s detention would harm the Palestinian Authority. Fatah, Dr Hanan Ashrawi, the Supreme Follow-up Committee of the Arab Community in Israel, the Palestinian National Assembly, Israeli Arab MPs Haneen Zoabi and Ahmed Tibi, and Talab al-Sana have all issued statements of support.

• This article was amended on 29 September 2011. The words “Salah’s lawyers claim” have been included to preface a sentence, five paragraphs from the end of the piece, to emphasise that this is a continuation of the argument made by the sheikh’s legal team.

Sheikh Raed Salah: Profile of pro-Palestinian activist
A High Court judge has ruled that Arab activist Sheikh Raed Salah, detained during a visit to the UK on the orders of Home Secretary Theresa May, was held unlawfully and is entitled to damages. But who is he?
BBC News

Sheikh Salah is a citizen of Israel – he was born in 1958 in the town of Umm al-Fahm, which a decade earlier had become part of the state of Israel when Palestine was divided.

After leaving school he became a founding member of the Islamic Movement in Israel, which is a legal organisation. He is now leader of its northern branch.

In 1989 he stood for Mayor of Umm al-Fahm and won 70% of the votes.

Assassination claim
He was re-elected in 1993 and 1997 before standing down in 2001 to concentrate on other Palestinian causes.

Sheikh Salah is a poet and a father of eight children.

Middle East Monitor, the group who invited Sheikh Salah to the UK, says he rejected the option of standing for election to the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, claiming it would be impossible to stop the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza in the Israeli political arena.

He has conducted a number of protests against Israeli policy and has campaigned against the expansion of Israeli settlements in the occupied territories and alleged abuses of Palestinian human rights.

His supporters claim he was shot in the head by Israeli troops in 2000 in an alleged assassination attempt.

In 2002 the Israeli Interior Ministry banned him from travelling abroad.

He organised convoys of buses from the villages in the West Bank to “show solidarity with the inhabitants of the Old City of Jerusalem”.

Travel bans
Sheikh Salah has also accused Israeli of desecrating both Islamic and Christian religious sites, including the Ma’man Allah cemetery in Jerusalem.

He has campaigned for Palestinians who fled their homes in 1948 to be able to return and in 2008, on the 60th anniversary of the creation of Israel, he insisted: “No retreat from the right of return”.

Israel has jailed him for raising money for Hamas, which is a criminal offence in Israel.

In 2009 and 2010 he was banned from entering Jerusalem.

He arrived in the UK on 25 June for a 10-day visit with a number of scheduled public meetings.

Sheikh Salah, whose entry into the UK had been banned on the grounds that his presence was “not conducive to the public good” was detained on 28 June after addressing a meeting in Leicester.

The Home Secretary admitted that border officials had missed several chances to stop him from entering the UK. He has said he was unaware of a ban.

He was given bail on 18 July and is now seeking damages for unlawful detention, as well as appealing against the decision to deport.

© Copyright JFJFP 2017