From the Voice of the Cape:
Lawyers for Mohamed Ali Harrath who was arrested at OR Tambo airport on Sunday on terrorism charges are fighting back on Monday morning, claiming that his arrest had been unlawful and fraught with irregularities. According to Zahid Asmal, news director of Channel Islam International, who was at the police station in Johannesburg last night to follow up on the case, no charges had been laid yet against Harrath, the chief executive officer of Islam Channel, a UK-based satellite broadcaster.
The Tunisian has been on an Interpol wanted list since 1992, after his homeland accused him of attempting to create “an Islamic state by means of armed revolutionary violence”. Harrath denies the charges. “(His lawyers) find irregularities in his arrest, as well as on the Interpol wanted list which still exists after 20 years. We find that a bit strange. The lawyers are alleging that he should be released this morning,” Asmal told VOC’s Breakfast Beat just after 8am.
He added that if Harrath was not released, an application would be made to the high court to seek his release. Asked if Harrath could face extradition to Tunisia from South Africa Asmal said: “I’m not to sure if South Africa has such an extradition treaty with Tunisia, but we it becomes the prerogative of the president to decide over that extradition, if indeed it exists.”
Asmal said in a recent case where the basis was similar as in the Harrath case, President Zuma had opted not to sign the extradition order. At the same time, he said, Muslims needed to remain wary. “The plot thickens against Muslims in this country and we’ve got to be on the alert and respond to situations as quickly as possible.”
According to the UK publication, the Guardian, Islam Channel came into the spotlight after it was accused of giving a platform to Anwar al-Awlaki, the alleged extremist cleric with links to Al Qaida and to the man charged with trying to blow up a transatlantic jet on Christmas Day. The satellite broadcaster that describes itself as “the voice of authority for Muslims in the UK” denied the claim.
The free-to-air English-language channel claims to be “a trustworthy source to the two million-plus population of Muslims in the UK”. But the alarm was raised when the broadcaster carried adverts for a box set of DVDs of Awlaki’s sermons and for at least two events at which the cleric was due to be the star speaker via a video link.
The channel’s website has allowed visitors to click through to a pooled archive of Islamic scholars, from which they can download sermons by Awlaki, including “Stop Police Terror”, “Brutality Towards Muslims” and “It’s a War against Islam”. Islamic scholars have expressed concern. “Anwar al-Awlaki is asking all Muslims to unite against the west as Muslims,” said Dr Irfan al-Alawi of the Centre for Islamic Pluralism. “He supports jihad to ensnare all naive, young people who get emotionally attached and go on jihadist tirades.”
US intelligence agencies claim Awlaki is a key member of al-Qaida. Two weeks ago John Brennan, the US deputy national security adviser, said there were “indications” there had been direct contact between Awlaki and Umar Abdulmutallab, the 23-year-old former University College London student charged with trying to set off a bomb on a flight bound for Detroit on Christmas Day.
Awlaki has also been linked to an attack by a US army major, Nidal Malik Hasan, last November, in which 13 people died. “Mr Awlaki is a problem,” Brennan said. “He’s clearly a part of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula. He’s not just a cleric. He is trying to instigate terrorism.” Awlaki, a US-born engineer-turned-cleric, is now based in Yemen, where some reports suggest he was killed just before Christmas in a strike on a suspected al-Qaida base. His family insists he was not harmed in the raid.
Leading British Muslim organisations, including the Islamic Society of Britain, have promoted Awlaki’s lectures in the past, but now condemn his views. Haras Rafiq of Centri, a counter-extremism consultancy, said Awlaki’s online influence over young radicals was becoming a serious concern. “The internet has by far overtaken TV as the favourite pastime of youngsters in countries such as the UK and the ability for people to download Awlaki’s sermons is helping to provide radicalisation on demand,” Rafiq said.
A spokeswoman for the channel said it had been unaware its website had provided links to Awlaki’s sermons. She said the sermons were in an online archive shared with many websites. “Islam Channel has not at any time given a platform to Mr Awlaki,” she said. The channel has now removed the link. Maajid Nawaz, a former presenter on the Islam Channel who is now director of the counter-extremism thinktank Quilliam, said: “Islam Channel is beamed into thousands of Muslim homes every night. With such influence, however, comes responsibility.”
(Also, see here)
Mohamed Ali Harrath is a funny chap.
Here is Mo Ali Harrath’s Interpol warrant
Here is The Times on the man.
There is no extradition treaty between South Africa and Tunisia. Therefore, unless Tunisia makes a huge fuss, Blighty is likely to be graced with his presence again. Before long, he’ll be back to co-organising events with Boris Johnson’s gang.
According to an internal document, Mohammed Ali Harrath is also a trustee of iEngage.