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Harrath charges dropped

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(source: VOC/SAPA)

The CEO of Islam Channel in the United Kingdom who was arrested at OR Tambo Airport in January on alleged terror charges walked out of the Kempton Park Magistrates Court a free man on Monday after all charges against him were dropped. According to the Media Review Network (MRN), Tunisian-born Muhammad Ali Harrath returned to South Africa to appear in court on Monday morning and the fact that all charges against him was withdrawn serves as a vindication of the fact that he had been innocent of all so-called "terror charges".

Harrath has been residing in the UK for the last few years where he heads Islam Channel which broadcasts on DSTV. According to the MRN, he has gained a great deal of respect as a well-known Muslim personality. On January 24 upon arriving in SA for a business visit on a flight from the UK, he was detained at the OR Tambo International Airport under mysterious circumstances.

He was arrested when his passport was scanned and showed he was on Interpol's most wanted list. On his arrest he took ill and had to be hospitalised and later moved to cells at Moot police station in Pretoria. The MRN, on his behalf, obtained an interdict from the High Court in Pretoria preventing Harrath from being extradited to Tunisia. He was released on condition that he report back to the court two months after his appearance. Questions "The questions that arise from the strange circumstances of his arrest must be addressed by the relevant authorities in South Africa. We therefore call upon them to establish the role of foreign agents interfering in the security obligations of a sovereign country," MRN chairperson, Iqbal Jassat, said on Monday. "What was very strange is that he was not detected at the migration's parameters at the [OR Tambo] airport. It was outside the parameters of migrations where two people, claiming to be from Interpol, arrested him." The organisation questioned the legitimacy of the red flag that was detected on Harrath's travelling documents, saying it should have been detected in the UK on his departure. "We are asking the South African government to get to the bottom of this situation," said Jassat. Harrath was a political refugee who sought asylum in the UK, after leaving Tunisia about 20 years ago. He obtained a working permit in the UK where he lived with his family. The MRN said if Harrath was to be sent back to Tunisia, he faced the death penalty as the maximum sentence, or a minimum of life imprisonment, apparently for his political activism.