12 September 2008

Press Release

Ugandan Intelligence Caught Out

Media Review Network (MRN) is outraged at the campaign of misinformation waged by the Ugandan security apparatus about the conditions of the arrest and detention of South Africans Haroon Saley and Mufti Hussain Bhayat in Uganda recently. MRN believes that the Ugandan Army, its military intelligence branch the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI) and the Joint Anti-Terrorism Task Force (JAT) as well as other internal security organizations in Uganda, sought to deliberately deceive the families of the men, the South African embassy and government, and the South African public. This deception has led to misrepresentations about various aspects of the seizure of Bhayat and Saley in the Ugandan and South Africa media which MRN would like to clarify.

Firstly, Haroon Saley and Hussain Bhayat had already been allowed to enter Uganda legally at the Immigrations Section at Entebbe International Airport. They were questioned at length by airport security initially and were moved from the airport to a detention facility several hours after arrival at the airport. Media reports suggesting that the pair were arrested upon arrival in Uganda by members of JAT are wholly inaccurate.

Ugandan authorities told Saley and Bhayat that they were being taken to the South African embassy to resolve the situation. They were then driven to an unauthorized detention facility in Kololo. The men had been detained under false pretences.

Bhayat and Saley were not held at a “safe-house”, as reported in the media, but at a security facility in the up-market Kololo neighborhood of Kampala, which the JAT uses for interrogating and torturing detainees. This is an unauthorized facility, housing many other detainees, which is the site of numerous human rights abuses.

The pair was subject to inhumane treatment at the Kololo facility. Amongst others, the men were denied telephone access, not given food, sufficient running water or blankets. They were also not allowed a change of clothing until seven days later. Mufti Bhayat was put into a tiny, dark room measuring only 1,5 X 2m for two days, where he was not given food or water, and had no mattress or blanket. This is in stark contrast to the statements made by Ugandan Army spokesperson, Major Paddy Ankunda, who told various media that the men were being treated well.

In addition, MRN would like to reiterate that at no point during their eleven day ordeal were Bhayat and Saley ever informed of the reason of their arrest and detention. No charges were ever brought against the men, and the reason for their subsequent deportation still remains unclear.

The arrest and detention of Bhayat and Saley was also illegal since their captors and interrogators were in civilian clothes with no identifying insignia. Under Ugandan law, only the police are authorized to arrest suspects, and the only authorized places of detention for civilians are police and prison facilities. The facility at Kololo is an unauthorized, unlisted site. The arrest was also unconstitutional under Ugandan law since the pair was initially denied communication with their families, and access to legal counsel and South African consular services. 

 

 

Haroon Saley and Mufti Hussain Bhayat have been cleared of any wrong-doing, and have not been implicated in any terror involvement. Therefore, the use of their arrest and detention as an example of South African Muslim involvement in terrorism either by academics, analysts or journalists is fraudulent, and is a violation of their integrity and an attack on their character. Those seeking to exaggerate the terror threat posed by the South African Muslim community and its related organizations and groupings, must bear in mind that no charges were brought against Saley in Uganda and South Africa.

MRN is also concerned about how long it had taken the Department of Foreign Affairs to obtain information about Bhayat and Saley, despite South Africa having a High Commission in Kampala. We are concerned about the nonchalant attitude adopted by the South African High Commissioner, Henry Chiliza, who ignored requests to visit the men, and instead dispatched a junior officer. This raises serious questions about the commitment of the South African diplomatic corps in Uganda to protect the interests of South Africans in that country.

The wrongful arrest and harassment of South African Muslims, Haroon Saley and Mufti Hussain Bhayat is a case of Islamophobic profiling in the name of the ‘war on terror’. MRN urges the South African government to address the issue of 42with Muslim community leaders, and to develop a concrete plan of action to prevent a recurrence of this saga.

Issued by:Iqbal JassatChairmanMedia Review Network083 594 3749

(Media Review Network is an advocacy group based in Tshwane (Pretoria), South Africa)

MRN

Author: MRN Network

The aspiration of the Media Review Network is to dispel the myths and stereotypes about Islam and Muslims and to foster bridges of understanding among the diverse people of our country. The Media Review Network believes that Muslim perspectives on issues impacting on South Africans are a prerequisite to a better appreciation of Islam.