The Times and Omar Deghayes

Correspondents in Brighton have sent us the following report on the Omar Deghayes case:

The Sunday Times on 18th June published an article attacking the brother of the British-resident Guantánamo detainee Omar Deghayes. The Save Omar campaign has widespread support in Sussex, where Omar lived for many years and where his family still live. He came to live near Brighton as a child refugee, after his father had been assassinated in Libya. The campaign to secure Omar’s release is backed by the Argus newspaper in Brighton and by all six of the Sussex MPs – Labour, Liberal Democrat and Conservative. The Sunday Times article seems to be deliberately aimed at undermining this broad support.

At no time were campaign members consulted about any of the allegations made, so any reporting that the “revelation surprised supporters of the campaign” is untrue. They heard nothing of the allegations until the paper appeared, and they gradually realised that a man who introduced himself at a campaign meeting as a visitor to Brighton who had come to look after a sick relative for a fortnight, and asked if he could join the meeting, was in fact an undercover reporter.

The article presents a highly confused account of two separate issues: the history of the mosque, of which Abu Baker Deghayes is not the imam; and the campaign for justice for his brother, which is entirely separate from the mosque, and emerged from a local anti-war movement and Amnesty International. As a campaign for due process which grew out of concern for the preservation of civil liberties in the troubled waters of the war on terror, we support the family of Omar Deghayes and their quest for justice. Omar has been detained without charge or trial for four years. Nothing is known of his guilt or innocence, because he has been denied due process. Omar is in the legal vacuum created by the war on terror.

The campaigners point out that an hour of clandestine note-taking is not enough to come to anything like a real understanding of the long and painful history of the Deghayes family, and the making of allegations as to the character of Abu Baker Deghayes is shabby and tendentious.