Al Jazeera

UK denies passport to Syria aid couple’s baby

A British aid worker based in northern Syria says he has been denied a UK passport for his baby daughter and says that sustained harassment by the security services has left him feeling he has “no home to go to”.

Tauqir Sharif has worked in Syria since 2012. [Photo: Aid Convoy]

Tauqir Sharif has worked in Syria since 2012. [Photo: Aid Convoy]

Tauqir Sharif, who works with his British wife in a refugee camp near the Turkish border, says that British officials’ failure to grant his 17-month-old daughter a passport has effectively stranded her in Syria, and potentially placed the family in greater danger by making it harder for them to escape if fighting breaks out.

“She’s not English, she’s not Syrian, in effect she is stateless. If we need to get out of Syria we can’t go through an official crossing. We have to be smuggled out, and face being shot by Turkish soldiers,” Sharif told Al Jazeera.

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Al Jazeera

UK government ‘exploiting Paris attacks to curb civil liberties’

London, United Kingdom – Privacy and civil liberties campaigners have accused David Cameron, the British prime minister, of “cynically exploiting” last week’s attacks in Paris to call for even more stringent counterterrorism and surveillance powers than those already being controversially pushed through parliament.

David Cameron says the UK faces a "fanatical death cult of Islamist extremist violence" [Photo: @Number10gov]

David Cameron says the UK faces a “fanatical death cult of Islamist extremist violence” [Photo: @Number10gov]

Speaking earlier this week, Cameron pledged to give British security services greater capabilities to monitor and read online communications, and said countries such as the UK and France were facing a “fanatical death cult of Islamist extremist violence”.

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Al Jazeera

Woolwich report fails to address torture and harassment claims

London, England – An official report into whether British security services could have prevented the murder of a soldier on a London street has been denounced as a smokescreen by critics who say it fails to address serious allegations of the intelligence agencies’ complicity in the torture and harassment of one of the men who carried out the attack.

Michael Adebolajo, left, Michael Adebowale.

Adebolajo, left, and Adebowale, said they killed Lee Rigby, a serving British soldier, in protest at British foreign policy.

Civil liberties campaigners also questioned the timing of the release of the report just one day before the government’s presentation to parliament on Wednesday of tough new counterterrorism measures to tackle the perceived heightened threat posed by Britons fighting in Syria.

“This is carefully choreographed. You’ve got the security apparatus investigating the security apparatus and deciding they need more money and more power so they can roll back civil liberties even further,” said Cerie Bullivant, a spokesman for CAGE, a human rights group.

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Al Jazeera

British Muslims raise surveillance concerns

London, United Kingdom – Muhammad still does not know for sure why British counter-terrorism police came to the door of his east London home shortly before dawn one morning in March 2012.

CAGE director Moazzam Begg was arrested on Tuesday.

CAGE director Moazzam Begg, a former Guantanamo Bay detainee, was arrested on Tuesday.

It was 5:30am on the day of Muhammad and his wife’s third wedding anniversary. The couple’s two young children were sleeping in their cots, and his elderly parents were also visiting.

“My mum woke me up, saying: ‘There are police at the door. Get up! Get up!’ My wife grabbed her headscarf and we all went into the living room,” Muhammad told Al Jazeera, requesting that only his first name be used.

“I counted 12 police officers in there and there were others lurking in the other rooms. They said they had a warrant to raid my house and my car.” Continue reading

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Al Jazeera

Spy chiefs hit out at media over Snowden leaks

London, United Kingdom – An unprecedented public appearance by British spy chiefs to face questioning over the conduct of their organisations following revelations about UK complicity in mass internet surveillance has been lambasted by civil liberties and privacy campaigners.

[www.ukparliament.org]

Andrew Parker, John Sawers and Iain Lobban were appearing together publicly for the first time. [www.ukparliament.org]

Thursday’s televised session of the intelligence and security committee, the parliamentary panel that oversees the activities of the British secret services, was hailed by Malcolm Rifkind, the committee’s chairman, as “a very significant step forward in the transparency of our intelligence agencies”.

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Al Jazeera

Cleric claims MI5 harassment over airport stops

London, England — Usman Ali has grown used to the routine whenever he passes through an airport on his way in or out of the UK.

Usman Ali says MI5 offered him a briefcase full of banknotes to turn informer.

Usman Ali says MI5 offered him a briefcase full of banknotes to turn informer.

As he walks to catch a flight, or shortly after touching down, he says he will be stopped by police and questioned without access to a lawyer and without the right to silence.

His laptop and mobile phone are examined and their data copied. He has also been searched, fingerprinted, obliged to give a DNA sample and photographed repeatedly.

Ali, a London-based Muslim cleric who travels frequently as part of his work for a charity delivering aid to Syrian refugees, says he has been stopped six times this year alone, and many times prior to that, often for several hours.

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