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Sunday, February 12, 2012

Did Interpol help nab Saudi "apostate"?

From The Guardian:

Interpol has been accused of abusing its powers after Saudi Arabia used the organisation's red notice system to get a journalist arrested in Malaysia for insulting the Prophet Muhammad.

Police in Kuala Lumpur said Hamza Kashgari, 23, was detained at the airport "following a request made to us by Interpol" the international police cooperation agency, on behalf of the Saudi authorities.

Jago Russell, the chief executive of the British charity Fair Trials International, which has campaigned against the blanket enforcement of Interpol red notices, said: "Interpol should be playing no part in Saudi Arabia's pursuit of Hamza Kashgari, however unwise his comments on Twitter.

"If an Interpol red notice is the reason for his arrest and detention it would be a serious abuse of this powerful international body that is supposed to respect basic human rights (including to peaceful free speech) and to be barred from any involvement in religious or political cases."

He called on Interpol to stand by its obligations to fundamental human rights and "to comply with its obligation not to play any part in this case, which is clearly of a religious nature".

Interpol, which has 190 member countries, has a series of coloured notice systems that police forces around the world use to pass on requests for help. Contacted at its headquarters in Lyon, France, the organisation did not immediately reply to requests for comment on the Kashgari case.

In response to past criticisms of the red notice system, it has said: "There are safeguards in place. The subject of a red notice can challenge it through an independent body, the commission for the control of Interpol's files (CCF)."

Last year Interpol was accused by Fair Trials International of allowing the system to be abused for political purposes when it issued a red notice for the arrest of the Oxford-based leader of an Asian separatist movement, Benny Wenda, who has been granted asylum and has lived in the UK since 2003.
Interpol has hundreds of people listed in its Red Notice system; over 160 are wanted by Saudi Arabia alone. (It looks like the limits of a database query is 160.) There are plenty of categories to hide a request for apostasy, for example "hooliganism" or simply "at large."

Anyway, it is too late for Kashgari:
Saudi citizen Mohamad Najeeb A. Kashgari, better known as Hamza Kashgari, who allegedly posted blasphemous tweets on Prophet Muhammad's birthday, was deported back to his country hours before his lawyers managed to get a High Court injunction to stop the deportation.

The lawyers, led by R Kesavan, said that they got the injunction at 1.30 pm today only to be told that Kashgari has been put on a private plane sent by the Saudi authorities at 10 am this morning.

The injunction was an order to the police, the Home Ministry, as well as the Subang and Kuala Lumpur International Airport immigration authorities to stop Kashgari's deportation.

"We managed to get the injunction from High Court Judge Datuk Rohana Yusof at her house.

"We are very disappointed that the authorities refused us access to Kashgari and we were given the runaround. We were not told of his whereabouts since he was detained at KLIA last Thursday. As he is now out of the country, there is nothing more we can do," said Kesavan.
Saudi Arabia, where you can get executed for a tweet.