Ahmed Errachidi, The General Who Was Just a Cook

The ARB submission deadline was still hanging over my head and I wanted to do as much as I possibly could do make sure there were no gaps in Ahmed’s life from July and even before, right up until the date he left to go to Morocco. And I was doing all this whilst still working, so I had to get as much done as I could before, after, and during work. Wherever possible I tried to get out of work early, so I could do all the running around that was needed. I was all over London, on the phone, on email trying to make sure we had as much concrete proof as possible that showed Ahmed was here the whole time before he left for Morocco in September. I chased down his bank records to see whether he had been using his ATM card in July, but Ahmed had been out of work after his last assignment for Christopher’s personnel so there had been no money in and no money out after that. The way Guantánamo is set up can prove a nightmare for an investigator. I couldn’t just ask Ahmed something if there was something I wanted to know. I couldn’t double check something with him. It could be months between visits from Clive just to ask him national insurance number or the name of his landlord, and even if Clive could do so, Ahmed might not remember. Armed only with a letter printed on Reprieve letterhead letter explaining who I was and what I was doing and a copy of Ahmed’s authorisation form allowing us to act upon his behalf, I was attempting to write Ahmed’s story, to put together a picture of his life before Guantánamo.

I went to the apartment where he lived several times and each time the farthest I got were brief conversations with the young children living there through an intercom. Frustration – because whilst I may have thought that the parents of the kids were in the background telling them to say there was no adult present, I wasn’t about to get aggressive or try to force my way in, so I had to just wear it and walk.

I also met two of Ahmed’s friends who loved him like a brother and would do anything in their power to help. They joined me on the trail too, juggling work and personal responsibilities to try and find the information we needed, the information that Ahmed needed.

His friend Abderrezzak told me that Ahmed had not left the country before September and that they saw each other every couple of days. He was also the last person to see Ahmed in the UK as he had taken him to the airport. He remembered accompanying Ahmed to the travel agent to buy his return plane ticket, which we obtained a copy of earlier this year. Abderrezzak said that Ahmed had to get his passport back from his solicitors so that he could travel. Because Ahmed had a home office application pending for residence, he would not have been able to travel as he did not have a passport. This took me to Malik and Malik solicitors. We had written to Malik and Malik solicitors on several occasions, however they did not have Ahmed’s records as they had either been destroyed or lost when Malik and Malik relocated to larger premises. I spoke to one of the Maliks who seemed to remember Ahmed’s case. He was pretty sure that Ahmed had been granted indefinite leave to remain in the UK. Unfortunately he did not have any documentary evidence to attest to this. He also said that often they do not keep the files. Once they have finished working with a client they usually give him his file. So it was quite likely they did not even have his file. What he also explained to me is that Ahmed would not have been able to travel whilst his home office application was ongoing. This was further proof that Ahmed was in the UK in July 2001.

So the ARB submission was almost ready to go. We added in the receipt for a money transfer that Mohammed had made to Morocco in July and statements from his two friends. I also added in research on the Finsbury Park Mosque here in London. One of the allegations was that Ahmed had attended this mosque which was a known hotbed for extremism. The mosque has been all over the news in the UK at one time or another, especially since the start of the war on terror. Apparently there is a notorious gift shop within the Mosque selling various materials—books, DVDs—all about jihad. However seldom reported is the fact that there are two Mosques in the Finsbury Park area of London; the one that has strong links with extremism and the Muslim Welfare House which was founded during World War II with a £100, 000 commitment from Winston Churchill and which in more recent years has received praise from His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, Prince Charles, and the Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone.


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