Faraj Hassan Al-Saadi: A young man along with his family who endured great pain and distress over his detention without trial or charges, and battled to live a normal life over the course of seven years. Despite this, in the eight months he was free, Faraj campaigned for the rights of other Muslims all over the UK who were victims of the War on Terror. He also became a spokesperson for HHUGS and was actively involved seizing every chance to raise awareness of her case at mosques and Islamic centres around the UK.
Detention Without Trial
Faraj was originally from Libya but moved to Italy after he feared for his life. After spending some time there he decided to come to the UK in 2002 and apply for asylum. It was from this point that his nightmare began.
At first he and his brother were detained on the basis of being illegal immigrants despite their paperwork being all in order. Both men were detained but only Faraj’s brother was released and after a few days Faraj was moved to another prison. Officers from the Scotland Yard Anti-Terrorism Special Unit tried to entice Faraj into giving evidence against other innocent brothers with offers of residency in the UK for him and his family. However, Faraj maintained his integrity.
Over 5 years detained without trial, Faraj was moved from prison to prison. He recalled his trials:
“My life in Belmarsh was very, very difficult. Twenty three hours a day behind locked doors. I think the most unlucky animal in this world was never treated like us. I sometimes laugh at people when I talk about prison in the so-called third world and forget about prisons in this country.”
Whilst inside Belmarsh, Faraj and others like him were purposely cut off from others:
“The wing we were in was segregated from all other wings as they believed we would brainwash the other Muslims in prison. Every one of us had been classified as Category ‘A’ to make it hard for us to make phone calls and visits. It took one year just to get my brother’s name cleared in order for him to visit me.”
The impact all of these relocations, rough treatment and separation from his loved ones would have had a tremendous impact upon his health, not to mention the suffering imposed upon his family, who was leaving abroad. He was even prepared to become single again just to save his wife any further heartache:
“I rang my wife in Pakistan and mother in Libya. I asked them to pray for me and forgive me if I had done anything wrong. I even gave my wife the option if she wanted me to set her free but she didn’t want that and she was crying so much. It was a very emotional time for everybody.”
Faraj’s daughter remembers: “Throughout that time I felt something was missing from my life but my lovely mother did than everything to make me happy. She managed to convince me that my Dad, who was in prison here in the UK, was actually working for us there and that he would soon be back.”
In May 2005 Faraj was acquitted by the Italian government of the terror charges against him yet he remained in detention as the UK government sought to deport him to Italy. It also sought to deport him to Libya on the basis of “secret evidence” and in the course of the proceedings he again found himself relocated to another prison, Long Lartin.
It was only in 2007 that the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) decided that Faraj risked being tortured and executed if he was returned to Libya. The entire process had been extremely distressing for Faraj as he just did not know what would become of him, regardless of his innocence. However, Faraj was still deemed to be a risk to national security on the basis of secret evidence, which was later ruled as an illegal reason for imprisonment. The result for Faraj was the imposition of a control order which saw him electronically tagged, with strict boundaries not to cross and under a firm curfew.
Within the first six months of his control order the police visited and raided Faraj’s home nearly forty times. His family, who was back in the UK, had to live with the constant fear of being raided. His outside movements were strictly limited and financial sanctions were imposed which forced him to live in poverty. The impact of the control order was also felt by other members of his family:
“My wife was really, really ill and she was supposed to be taken to the hospital. When I asked the police to let me come out of my boundary and take her to the hospital during the night, they refused.”
A female police officer even targeted Shaima, Faraj’s young daughter, who searched her bag as she was leaving to go to school. He simply looked at his daughter and advised her to be patient, saying that Allah would reward her for it. She later innocently asked her dad if they thought she had a bomb in her bag.
“Suddenly I heard the best news in my life: that we were going to travel to England to see the most important person in our life; our life will be much better. But there were many issues. My Dad was under a control order. I realised that the police can come to our house anytime they want; sometimes nearly ten of them came at 6 o'clock in the morning. They always search the house. They turn everything upside down. A few times they took my things. I was always scared as was my Mum.”
In 2010, at just eight years of age, Shaima gave a speech at an ISOC dinner in which she spoke of the police raids and how she could not have a normal relationship with her father. They had only been reunited when she was six and a half years old:
“I was always scared, as was my Mum. I realised that I was not allowed to use the internet. No play station allowed, no MP3. I couldn't go with my Dad to visit any places because his boundary was very small. No friends could come to my houseâ€¦”
It was Faraj who took the initiative at the time he was in prison to contact HHUGS to seek help for himself and his family, a lifeline given to him by Allah:
“HHUGS tried to help me financially but I was under the United Nations money sanction where no one was allowed to give me money, even buy me a coffeeâ€¦
“The day I was released, I noticed cars that were three hundred yards away from me and I used to think they were going to hit me. I walked on the pavements and was constantly looking right and left. I ran back to the flat and couldn’t leave.. Alhamdullilah, the next day brothers from HHUGS came with their children to visit me and it gave me some relief.
When I was released I didn’t know anyone from the Muslim community apart from HHUGS and very few others. HHUGS stood up for me and supported me in challenging the police oppression and were also helping other Muslim brothers and sisters going through difficult times. Alhamdullilah, HHUGS helped me and my family a lot.”
HHUGS was able to assist Faraj and his family in several ways such as offering transportation for shopping visits, to help pay for everyday living costs, paying for his sports course to get him back into work.
When Shaima gave her speech at just eight years old, she also had this to add:
“Once they refused to let my Dad take me to my Islamic school until one Aunty from HHUGS did it for me for 3 months. There were some Muslims who helped us.”
“I thank HHUGS for everything they did for us; paying for my school, taking me to school, sending me gifts, looking after my family all the way. I hope everyone will support HHUGS. After Allah, I have trust in them. They are very sincere and will help many Muslim children in a similar situation.”
HHUGS’ emotional support clearly meant a great deal to Faraj. In his final days, while speaking at HHUGS fundraising dinner in Birmingham, he implored others to keep our work going:
“This organisation means so much to me and other Muslim brothers and sisters going through the same test. Come forward and don’t be scared. What is happening to your fellow brothers and sisters who are suffering like I have is a munkar [wrong-doing] and must be stopped.
So make sure you think about these families that need support from HHUGS. Support them because HHUGS really have done a lot for me and my family. I have to encourage brothers and sisters to help other families. There are sisters and their children who are currently in need of your help.”
A Tragic End
“When Allah wishes good for a slave He utilises him.” The Sahaba asked, “O Messenger of Allah, how does He utilise him?” He said, “He grants him tawfiq (guidance) to perform righteous deeds just before his death” (at-Tirmidhi)
On the morning of 16th August 2010, on route fulfilling a favour for a friend, Faraj was tragically killed in a motorcycle accident in Harrow, North-West London.
A local doctor present at the scene desperately fought to save his life, however, it was decreed that Faraj was to return to His Lord that day.
“He had blood coming from his mouth and nose and looked like he had broken both his wrists. I was trying to talk to him but had little response. At first he didn't have a pulse but I continued to give him CPR and I managed to revive him. In the space of about five or six minutes I had successfully revived him three times and on a couple of occasions he opened his eyesâ€¦but in the end there was nothing I could do.”
A post-mortem concluded that Faraj had died of chest injuries.
Described as a man who touched a thousand hearts, his sudden death sent shockwaves of grief through the community, sorrow that was shared by those he knew as well as many who did not know him; but who were upset, touched and inspired by reading about the harrowing period spent in detention, and thereafter, his dedication in campaigning tirelessly for those who were oppressed and in need of help.
On Monday 23rd August, the Janazah (funeral prayer) was performed after ‘Isha at Regents Park Mosque. His body was then sent for burial in his native Libya; where he was born and brought up, and, in spite of his experiences, a country that he continued to love to the end.
Faraj returned to Allah while he was fasting in the blessed month of Ramadhan, after having spent the last months of his freedom striving endlessly for those in need. It is hoped that the promise of Allaah holds true for him: “Whoever fasts one day seeking the Face of Allah and that was his final action, will enter Paradise.”(Ahmad)
Even after his death HHUGS has continued to offer his family emotional and financial support. Most appropriately, Deen Riders, a group of Muslim motorbike enthusiasts, teamed up with HHUGS to raised funds for the family by doing a sponsored trek in the last ten nights of Ramadhan.
When the family relocated to Leicester, HHUGS provided furniture and basic necessities for their home and regular financial support.
HHUGS was deeply worried for the emotional and mental welfare of Faraj’s wife too, so a rota of visitors was put in place and we had sisters staying overnight to keep her company.
So now that you know Faraj’s story, take a few moments to consider the important request he left behind and re-read his final sentence:
“Volunteer if you can by taking sisters to visit their husbands in prison. Drop that £20, £30 or £100 into a HHUGS account. It won’t go to HHUGS trustees’ pockets, it will go to these families. Allah will help you on the Day of Judgement and give all of it back to you”.
May Allah bless Faraj and grant him Paradise without account, ameen.