Hider Hanani is an Algerian national who has been held in Britain’s Secret Guantanamo without trial for over seven years. He is being threatened with deportation to Algeria where there are grave fears that he may be tortured or killed.
Hider spoke exclusively to Cageprisoners from his cell in HMP Long Lartin.
I, Hider Hanani – also known as Amar Makhlulif – was born in Algeria to a modest family in 1966. I had a simple upbringing in which my family instilled into me values of love, tolerance and patience. When war broke out in Algeria in 1991-1992, something tragic happened to our beautiful country. For the first time in my life, I experienced sadness, pain and despair. I did not know then that I would experience those feelings again and again, but in a land far away from Algeria.
Like any decent human being, I dreamed of a good world, a world full of peace, freedom and justice for all people. As the war consumed Algeria, many of us were persecuted by the Algerian Secret Service. Many were tortured and killed, whilst others were detained in the camps of the Algerian desert, where daytime temperatures exceed 45 degrees [centigrade]. Our dreams and hopes were vanished.
So in 1992, I fled Algeria to come to Britain.
Why Britain? Since my youth, I had learned that Britain was a democratic country, a defender of human rights, in which the rule of law, freedom and justice are upheld. Britain for me was the land in which no man was wronged. Nelson Mandela said that, ‘the values of a nation are measured by the manner in which it treats its prisoners’. I had heard that Britain was a civilised land that treated prisoners with dignity so it must be a safe place for refugees. How wrong I was to be.
In 1993, I arrived in Britain and applied for political asylum. I lived and worked in Britain for the next few years. I liked Britain; it became my new home. On 28th February 2001, I was arrested by 40 terrorist police, along with a group of other people. We were all charged with ridiculous terrorism offences and sent to Belmarsh prison. But two months later, on 16th April 2001, all these charges against us were dropped due to a lack of evidence. I was exonerated by British prosecuting authorities – or at least I thought I was.
Everyone was released except me. I was remanded at Belmarsh prison under immigration laws. I applied for bail, but the Home Office kept on delaying the bail hearing, citing various excuses. At last, I was granted bail on the 3rd July 2001. On the afternoon of 3rd July 2001, Belmarsh officers told me to pack my bags and said, ‘Get ready, you are going home.’ I quickly packed my things and eagerly went to the prison inspection to be processed for release. I was relieved and happy that the nightmare of the last four months had come to an end.
Instead, the prison officers opened the gate, and I stepped outside into the big, wide world – the free world. At last, I would now feel the air of freedom on my face and fresh grass under my feet. But it wasn’t to be. I had underestimated the callousness of the British government. As soon as I put my right foot outside the gate, two police officers arrested me under an extradition warrant from the USA. Apparently, a man arrested in the USA back in 1999 had all of a sudden given my name to an investigator as a terrorist leader.
I was taken straight back to my cell. My name and photo appeared all over the world’s media. They said that one of the world’s most dangerous terrorist leaders had been “captured”. I lost all of my extradition hearing as they were duly rubber-stamped by the British courts, especially after 9/11 happened. I remained in prison awaiting extradition.
It later transpired that the ‘witness’ who testified against me had been threatened with 130 years in a US prison if he did not [testify]. Eventually he withdrew his testimony against me and the US extradition request for me fell through in August 2005. I was then immediately re-arrested and detained under Immigration Law, pending deportation to Algeria. I remain in prison to this day, as a political prisoner, held without charge for over seven years.
I have spent over seven – seven precious years of my life, in a prison. These years will never come back. I have been treated in prison in ways that even Algerian authorities would be ashamed to consider. In Algeria, they kill you physically [along] with verbal insults. In Britain, they kill you psychologically, with a smile.
I am only seeking the same rights as [afforded to] the worst rapists, paedophiles and offenders in British prisons: and that is the right to a fair, open trial. If I have done something wrong, I should be put on trial and punished. If not, then I should be released and allowed to get on with my life. Is this too much to ask?
Long Lartin Prison
Write to Amar:
Amar Makhlulif FF8180
(aka Hider Hanani)
HMP Long Lartin
Worcestershire WR11 8TZ