By Karin Friedemann, TMO
Friends of Ibragim Todashev, a Chechen man murdered in his Orlando home by the FBI, told the Florida chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) that FBI agents asked them to spy on Orlando-area mosques, threatening arrest if they failed to comply. CAIR â€œhas received several corroborating reports from friends of Todashev that FBI agents have threatened to wrongfully arrest them if they do not work with the agency to spy on local mosques, Muslim restaurants and hookah lounges.â€
But a similar case involving a young Somalian man has flown under the public radar. It was only because of his month long hunger strike inside a Brooklyn, New York prison (MCC) that this author heard about the extraordinary rendition of Mahdi Hashi.
Falguni Sheth reports that Hashi, a British citizen of Somali descent â€œwas continually pressured by M15 (the British equivalent of the CIA) to cooperate with them and spy on fellow Somalis.â€ His friend, Nur Mohamed, said a British intelligence officer told him, â€œIf you do not work for us we will tell any foreign country you try to travel to that you are a suspected terrorist.â€
When Hashi refused to become an informant, he became a target of government harassment. The reason for suspicion seems to be his interest in studying Arabic language abroad. When he was 16, he was arrested in Egypt and held for 11 days for a visa violation, even though his visa was not expired. During that time he was interrogated and pressured to confess something he knew nothing about.
â€œEgyptian authorities are saying that you have links to Al-Qaida and other terror networks, specifically the Chechen mujahedeen and also the mujahedeen in Caucasus.â€
â€œI didnâ€™t know what â€˜Caucasusâ€™ was,â€ Hashi told Cageprisoners. â€œThey said that youâ€™ve actually trained as well, you done training with them, extremist training.â€
After being deported back to the UK, he decided to go to Syria to continue his studies. Upon his return, he was interrogated and fingerprinted at Heathrow airport and told he was on a Terrorism Database. Hashi was told that his â€˜suspectâ€™ status and travel restrictions would be lifted only if he agreed to co-operate with M15. Hashi complained to his Member of Parliament, Frank Dobson and the Investigatory Powers Tribunal, the body which oversees M15, that he was being harassed by security officers because he had refused to work as a spy in his North London Muslim community.
Soon later, his grandmother became ill so he decided to fly back to Somalia for a visit. He was stopped at Gatwick airport and a man from M15 warned him not to get on the plane, saying, â€œWhatever happens to you outside the UK is not our responsibility.â€ Hashmi got on the plane anyway.
When he landed, he was immediately arrested by police in Djibouti who told him, â€œWe donâ€™t know why youâ€™re here but weâ€™ve been told to keep you here. Itâ€™s coming from the government and its coming from your government.â€ He was deported back to the UK.
Finally, in 2012, Hashi returned to Somalia where he married and had a child.
Shortly thereafter, British Home Secretary Theresa May sent him a letter in the mail which stripped him of his UK citizenship. â€œThe reason for this decision is that the Security Service assess that you have been involved in Islamicist (sic) extremism and present a risk to the national security of the United Kingdom due to your extremist activities,â€ wrote May, even though Hashi had never been accused of any crime.
A few weeks later, he disappeared from Mogadishu. â€œWorried, his family appealed to the British government, who informed them that their hands were tied, becauseâ€”alasâ€”he was no longer a citizen,â€ reports Falguni Sheth in Salon. Hashi had been kidnapped and secretly rendered to The US drone base at Camp Lemmonier in Djibouti. His family learned of his whereabouts from someone who had recently been released from the prison in Djibouti that Mahdi had been detained alongside him.
â€œHashi was detained, abused, and interrogated in Djibouti for several months before being handed over for more interrogations to the Americans. After several months, he suddenly appeared in handcuffs in a Brooklyn Federal Court right before Christmas of 2012, along with 2 Swedish men of Somali descent,â€ reports Sheth. He is being held in solitary confinement under special administrative measures (SAMs), which restrict his communication with attorneys.
Saghir Hussain, the attorney for Hashiâ€™s family, said they learned of his hunger strike through a phone call with Hashi, which was interrupted â€œafter about 60 seconds or so.â€
CBS news reported that a letter, written by US Attorney Loretta Lynch, has suddenly appeared in Hashmiâ€™s file, alleging without providing any evidence, that Hashi and two other Somalis, Ali Yasin Ahmed and Mohammed Yusuf â€œhad substantial knowledge that al-Qaida was building a chemical weapons factory, and that they had substantial countersurveillance expertise.â€
Tom Foot writes in the Camden New Journal, â€œAccording to the FBI, Mr Hashi was â€˜deployed in combat operations to support al-Shabaab action in Somalia.â€™â€ Further details of the case against him have not been made available to the defense team. Mr Hashi has not been told of what he is accused. Campaigners fear that his rights will be denied to him in what they describe as a â€œsecret courtâ€ set-up. They are calling for him to face charges in Britain and for his citizenship to be restored.
Geoffrey Robertson, QC, a prominent human rights barrister told the Daily Mail, UK: â€œThe increase in orders under this Government of depriving British people of their citizenship on non-conducive grounds is a matter of concern because it is always very difficult to challenge fairly. It means people are being deprived of their rights as a British citizen on the say-so of security officials who canâ€™t be challenged in court.â€
Several other Britons have had their citizenship stripped as soon as they left the country. Bilal al-Berjawi and Mohamed Sakr of London were stripped of their UK citizenship and were then killed by two US drone strikes in Somalia.
Meanwhile, a Nigerian man Lawal Babafemi, 33, has also been targeted by the same US Attorney Loretta Lynch in Brooklyn. Babafemi, who pled Not Guilty on September 27, 2013, was detained in Nigeria in 2011 and then transferred to the US, for working on the online magazine â€œInspire,â€ whose publisher, Anwar al-Awlaki was killed by a US drone strike in Yemen.
Hashi is taking liquids but no food. So far he is not being force-fed.