Tuesday, May 31 2016

Arab immigration officer sacked for 'watching Al Jazeera too much'

The Daily Mail, Daily Express and Daily Telegraph all report on a case of discrimination and unfair dismissal brought by an British - Arab immigration officer against the Home Office after he was sacked from his post at Gatwick Airport over alleged claims of ‘links to Islamic terrorism’.

In a Kafkaesque tribunal hearing held under ‘closed material procedures’ the man has not been made aware of the evidence held against him and has not been able to represent himself in court. Instead he is represented by a special advocate appointed by the Attorney-General but who is not permitted to discuss the evidence held against the defendant with him.

From the Daily Mail:

“An Arab immigration officer whose colleagues claimed he looked at the Al Jazeera website too much at work was sacked over alleged links to Islamic terrorism, a tribunal heard.

“The 44-year-old interpreter, who helped Special Branch interview terror suspects at Gatwick airport, had his security clearance removed in 2005, a month after returning from a year-long sabbatical in his native Yemen.

“The tribunal heard how colleagues noticed that he accessed the Al Jazeera news website 'excessively' and became suspicious of him.

“He was suspended on full pay for five years then sacked after the Home Office deemed him a risk to national security.

“Now the officer, a naturalised British citizen, has attacked the Home Office for not allowing him to defend himself against the unspecified allegations and is suing his former employers for discrimination and unfair dismissal.

“The father of three claims it was only because of his race and the fact that he is a Muslim that he was suspected of associating with terrorists.

“His employment tribunal was covered by controversial ‘closed material procedures’, which allow cases to be heard almost entirely in private to stop sensitive intelligence being discussed in public.

“Known only as ‘Mr W’, he has not been told of the evidence against him as the Home Office argued it would risk national security.

“Mr W was told his security clearance was withdrawn from his estimated £28,000-a-year post because he had been ‘identified as an associate of a network of suspected Islamist extremists who were assessed to be supporting the insurgency in Iraq’.

“The Home Office added that even an innocent link to such people would put Mr W in a ‘vulnerable position’.

“Large parts of the hearing at the Central London Employment Tribunal have been held behind closed doors without Mr W, his legal team or the press and public allowed in court.

“Instead of his chosen lawyer, he is represented by a special advocate –appointed by the Attorney-General – who has clearance to see the secret material but is forbidden from discussing the evidence with Mr W.

“Due to the sensitivity of the material, the Home Office barristers did not ask Mr W anything under cross-examination and the department’s witnesses said four times during proceedings they could not answer questions put to them in open court.

“Mr W, who was sacked in 2010 after an external appeal found against him, said: ‘I was not told... of the identity or identities of the person with whom I am alleged to have associated. If I was told of such a person, I would have been able to explain such contact and prove my innocence, if indeed there was such contact.

‘Whilst in Yemen I met a number of people but I do not recall anyone who was fanatical or seemed of that type or who I thought was suspicious.

'None of my family in Yemen or the UK, immediate or extended, is remotely interested in politics or terrorism. I am certain of that.

‘While going about my normal business, for example attending a mosque, I suppose I may be statistically more likely to come into contact, without knowing it, with a supporter of the insurgency in Iraq.

‘I consider myself loyal to the UK and to the Home Office.’

“Mr W told the tribunal last week that police had never interviewed him nor had security services asked him to assist any investigations.

“The Home Office denies discriminating against Mr W’s race and religion and is contesting his claim of unfair dismissal.”

The accusation of the man frequently visiting the Al Jazeera website, if indeed amongst the serious charges leveled, is disturbing indeed given the site’s popularity for news particularly since its widespread and incomparable coverage of events leading up to and during the Arab Spring.

Earlier this year, Andrew Tyrie MP condemned the government’s plans to extend the mandate for closed material procedures as offending the principles of open justice and the ‘tools of dictatorships’.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 29 August 2012 13:50

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