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May 03, 2001
Blair urged to openly press for release of detained British Muslims in Yemen
Families of five British Muslims imprisoned in Yemen have urged the Prime Minister to come out into the open and demand the release of the detainees, reports this month's issue of The Muslim News.
"We want the Government to give more public and vocal support. We want Tony Blair to say publicly that the trial was flawed and come in support of the detainees," solicitor of the family members of the Britons, Natalia Garcia, told The Muslim News outside Foreign Office in the Old Admiralty Building on Wednesday night.
Garcia was speaking after the families of the men had a meeting yesterday evening with the Foreign Office following the public announcement by President Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen that he would release the five British men imprisoned there to serve their sentences in the UK in return for the extradition of Abu Hamza al-Masri. "The offer is a red herring," said Garcia after a one-and-a-half hour meeting with Foreign Office officials.
The family members of the imprisoned Britons were said to be frustrated at the lack of progress. "They are disappointed with the British Government's lack of strong, high-level robust action. They are tired of the quiet diplomacy which has not worked. The Government must publicly say the trial was unfair," Garcia said.
A Foreign Office spokesperson rejected media reports that they were considering exchanging Abu Hamza with the five Britons. "It is unlikely that we'd be able to agree as there is no legal framework to do that. There is no extradition agreement with Yemen," said the spokesperson.
On the issue of the assault by prison guards on one of the Britons, Mohsen Ghailan in October last year (as reported exclusively in The Muslim News No 138), the British Consul in Yemen received a report at end of March dated November 2000 which concluded there was no evidence that Ghailan had been "assaulted or beaten up by hand". According to Garcia, British Government is unhappy with the report and have written back to express their "disappointment that an independent doctor was not allowed to visit Ghailan at the time" and added that Ghailan still maintains that he was assaulted by prison guards.
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