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Prisoners of Faith Campaign Update: Cehl Meeah released today! Concerns remain for his safety.

06 November 2003

IHRC can report that Mauritian prisoner of faith, Cehl Meeah was released from custody today, a free man after almost three years incarceration on trumped up charges.

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Islamic Human Rights Commission
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6th November 2003

Prisoners of Faith Campaign Update: Cehl Meeah released today! Concerns remain for his safety.

IHRC can report that Mauritian prisoner of faith, Cehl Meeah has had all but one minor charge against him dropped. He was released from custody today, a free man after almost three years incarceration on trumped up charges.

IHRC congratulates all the campaigners who worked tirelessly for his release, as well as those observers and lawyers who responded to IHRC’s call to take on this case, including Faisal Bodi of aljazeera.net, and British lawyers Osama Daneshyar (barrister) and Nicholas Cooke QC who took on the case pro bono and in the firm belief of Meeah’s innocence.

Further campaign points:

(i) There are serious concerns for the immediate and future safety of Cehl Meeah as the prosecution of his case revealed serious political corruption in the Mauritian party political set-up.

IHRC also calls on campaigners to ask their foreign ministers to make immediate representations to the Mauritian government to ensure the safety of Cehl Meeah.

(ii) The BBC World Service’s ‘Focus on Africa’ today contained a short interview with Cehl Meeah upon his release which demonstrated grotesque and obvious Islamophobia. Please complain to the ‘Focus on Africa’ team.

The programme can be heard tonight on the following URL:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/focusonafrica/

or after 7th November you can listen to it on the page below ((C) BBC World Service)

The following points can be raised:

(a) The programme’s presenter Maureen Nkandu Mundea, introduced the piece by stating “Three years after being imprisoned by a leader of an Islamic political party in Mauritius…” Although she amended this statement to “Three years after being imprisoned the leader of an Islamic political party in Mauritius has been released,” no apology was made for the original mistake which clearly had Islamophobic overtones.

(b) The interviewer of Cehl Meeah proceeded to ask particularly inappropriate questions that displayed a startling lack of journalistic quality as well as being Islamophobic.

Despite the presenter already stating that the case against Cehl Meeah was dropped as the prosecution said they had no evidence to substantiate the charges against him, the interviewer asked Meeah:

“Did you get off on a technicality or did you convincingly prove that you had nothing to do with these very serious charges?” He compounded the negative implications of this with the following questions: “So why did they arrest you, why did they charge you?” followed by “Now you were in prison for three years, so they must have had something against you.”

Complaints to Focus on Africa should indicate that this case was being closely monitored by human rights groups and indeed human rights observers were sent twice to follow the case. IHRC not only arranged these visits but the legal team from the UK including Nicholas Cooke QC took on the case without charge because they believed in Meeah’s innocence and that he was the victim of gross human rights violations and political persecution. When mention was made of Nicholas Cooke QC it was only in the context of him being a British lawyer, without addressing the reasons as to why he went.

Aside from the politics of Mauritius, Cehl Meeah’s case is one acknowledged to be an abuse of justice. The BBC’s report did not make any mention of the world-wide campaign based on this point or even address the issue of human rights, instead casting doubt over the release of Meeah and implying that he and his party were of a dubious and violent nature.

The BBC should apologise forthwith for this type of poor journalism and ensure that an on-air apology is made.

Email: focus@bbc.co.uk

Write:
Focus On Africa
BBC World Service
Bush House, Strand
London WC2B 4PH
UK

Fax: (+44) 20 7379 0519
SMS number: (+44) 7786 205075
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