Gay Muslim Appeals against Conviction

Hate crime victim framed, jailed for eight years.

“A grave miscarriage of justice,” says OutRage!

Male partner and two cousins murdered in similar attack.

London – 8 May 2006


A 28 year old gay Muslim prisoner, Mohamed S, has launched an appeal against conviction. His case has been accepted for consideration by the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC), the top body for examining allegations of wrongful convictions.

Mohamed, who trained as an Imam (a Muslim priest), was jailed for eight years in 2002, following a homophobic hate attack on him at his east London home in the middle of the night. He says he was framed by the men who attacked him.

New evidence suggests Mohamed was the victim, not the perpetrator. Yet he is in jail, while his alleged attackers escaped prosecution.

Subsequently, his male partner, two cousins and a family friend have also been murdered.

Mohamed, who has asked for his full name to be withheld because he fears violent retribution against himself and his family, has been adopted by gay human rights group OutRage!

“We are assisting with the preparation of his CCRC appeal and his parole application,” said Peter Tatchell of OutRage!

“Mohamed appears to have been subjected to a vicious homophobic hate attack by five Asian men who had been previously threatening to kill him and his male partner, Junda.”

Mr Tatchell has visited Mohamed several times in prison and has corresponded with him since April 2005.

“Mohamed says the men burst into his home in east London on 30 June 2002 at 3am, armed with a knife and sticks,” continued Mr Tatchell.

“In court, the men claimed they claimed they had been invited to a party at Mohamed’s house and accused him of attacking them. Mohamed has always maintained his innocence.

He was sentenced to eight years jail on charges of causing grievous bodily harm. This is double the typical sentence for a person like Mohamed, who is of previous good character and with no previous convictions.”

“After Mohamed was jailed, a similar group of men burst into the east London home of his partner, Junda, also in the middle of the night. They hacked him with a sword and then shot him dead. Mohamed believes the killing of Junda is probably related to the threats and attack on him. Both men were receiving homophobic death threats. According to Mohamed, these death threats came from some of the men he says attacked him in his home. Junda’s murder remains unsolved.

“Mohamed is the victim of a grave miscarriage of justice. The criminal justice system has failed him. It is scandalous that he was convicted,” said Mr Tatchell.

“He was left to rot in prison for three years, with no solicitor to defend him.

“We have now organised new legal representation. Laura Higgs and Michael Schwarz of Bindman and Partners solicitors have taken on Mohamed’s case. They were not involved in the previous legal representation. Thanks to their help, we are making progress towards getting his conviction overturned.

“I am gathering new witnesses and evidence, and helping Mohamed prepare his appeal against conviction,” added Mr Tatchell.

“At his trial, Mohamed’s defence was hampered by intimidation of his witnesses, by alleged bias by the trial judge, by apparent failings by his lawyers, by his severe psychological trauma, by his poor command of English, and by his on-going fears for his own life and the safety of his partner, family and friends.

“I have discovered a series of successful complaints against Mohamed’s trial judge, Judge Nicholas Medawar:

“In the summer of 2005, three people convicted in trials presided over by Judge Medawar had their convictions overturned by the Court of Appeal because of his alleged bias against the defendants and their lawyers,” added Mr Tatchell.

“Mohamed alleges bias by Judge Medawar against him and his barrister and witnesses.

“Judge Medawar’s summing up to the jury appears to have ignored major inconsistencies in the evidence of prosecution witnesses. He barely mentioned police doubts about the truthfulness of the five men who testified against Mohamed.

“This alleged bias is currently the subject of a CCRC investigation.

“There were five main prosecution witnesses who gave evidence against Mohamed at his trial. These are the men who he alleges burst into his home and tried to stab him. Like Mohamed, these five men are Asian.

“Police now confirm that one of the men who was involved in the violence at Mohamed’s house, and who testified against him in court, has admitted perjury. He has confessed that he and the other four main prosecution witnesses conspired together to concoct lies to the police about his true identity. This casts serious doubt on their integrity and the reliability of the evidence given in court by these five main prosecution witnesses (the five men Mohammed alleges attacked him).

“One of the prosecution witnesses has a caution for affray – a serious violent offence. The police and the Crown Prosecution Service have been unable, or unwilling, to supply information as to whether the other main prosecution witnesses have criminal records. It is believed by some people in east London that some of the attackers are, or have been, involved in serious criminal activity, including extortion and violence.

“Mohamed’s conviction is clearly unsafe and should be overturned.

“OutRage! plans to assemble a cross-section of MPs, religious leaders and human rights advocates to support its call for Mohamed’s conviction to be quashed.

“We have helped Mohamed prepare a Criminal Cases Review Commission appeal, with the aim of getting him a retrial.

“New evidence I have unearthed suggests Mohamed was wrongly convicted.

“I have traced two new defence witnesses. Both corroborate that Mohamed was the victim of a homophobic hate campaign in the weeks prior to the attack.

“One witnessed Mohamed being homophobically abused in the street, just a couple of weeks before the attack, by Asian men in a car matching the description of the car driven by one of the prosecution witnesses.

“The other new witness says that on the night of the attack on Mohamed, he was invited by the prosecution witnesses to come and “sort some poofs out” at Mohamed’s address. He has signed a statement confirming this invitation, and the fact that he saw a large knife and wooden sticks on the seat of their car. He believes he was being asked to participate in a homophobic attack.

“Some of the prosecution witnesses (the alleged attackers) gave the police and court completely contradictory accounts of how and where two of them were stabbed. In at least one instance, it seems physically impossible that Mohamed could have stabbed them in the way they describe. The defence legal team failed to commission forensic medical tests to determine whether Mohamed would have been able to stab the attackers in the way they claimed.

“On the night of the violence, it was Mohamed who got his best friend (Ramesh) to call the police, whereas the five main prosecution witnesses fled the crime scene.

“When they were apprehended by the police, some of the prosecution witnesses gave false names and addresses and a false account of how two of them came to be stabbed. This included the untrue claim that they had been set upon by a gang of black youths in the high street.

“Police CRIS reports confirm the prosecution witnesses false stories, and the fact that the police believed that the prosecution witnesses were not telling the truth.

“I have secured possession of internal police documents, written soon after the attack, where police officers state that the five main prosecution witnesses were evasive, their stories conflicted, and they were unable to explain how two of them were stabbed. The police concluded they were lying.

Mohamed appears to have been convicted because these vital documents were never presented to the court at Mohamed’s trial.

“The evidence offered in court did not point to Mohamed’s guilt. It was purely circumstantial and involved his word against the word of his five alleged attackers (who testified as the main prosecution witnesses). No forensic evidence showed that he used violence. There were also many major inconsistencies in the prosecution evidence.

“Mohamed’s lawyer failed to call to court six witnesses who were present in Mohamed’s house on the night of the attack, and who could have helped corroborate his version of events. More than 20 serious contradictions in prosecution witness statements and court testimony were never been properly exposed by his lawyer.

“Mohamed’s poor English meant he could not adequately follow adequately the trial proceedings and accurately express himself in court.

“Mohamed was close to a nervous breakdown and was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PSTD) when he came to court.

“He was not fit to stand trial.

“From my examination of the evidence, Mohamed did not receive adequate legal representation.

“Even though the jury explicitly wanted to hear from Mohamed’s key defence witness (Logan) Mohamed’s lawyer failed to call him.

“At his trial, Mohamed did not disclose his homosexuality or the homophobic nature of the attack. Even so, he should have never been convicted. The evidence did not point clearly to his guilt and the prosecution case was riddled with inconsistencies.

“Mohamed was not open about his gayness because he feared rejection by his family and violent retribution by sections of the Muslim community in east London where he lived.

“According to Mohamed, some Muslims regard gayness as a major sin and crime – even worse than rape or murder. They believe it is morally justified to kill a gay Muslim. These fundamentalists see the murder of gay people as a religious duty to restore the ‘honour’ of the family and the community.

“Because of his fear of so-called ‘honour killing’, Mohamed kept his sexuality secret.

“He also feared that his family would suffer threats and violence on account of them having a gay son. To protect his family from violent reprisals, during his trial he felt obliged to remain closeted and silent about the homophobic motive of his attackers.

“Mohamed’s fears were well founded. He tried to keep his homosexuality secret to protect his family. Initially, he was successful but later – particularly after his trial – the alleged attackers made sure lots of people knew he was gay. His family and friends were subjected to homophobic blackmail, threats and violence.

“Two cousins and a family friend have since been murdered in his home country, after his family failed to pay homophobic blackmailers the price they demanded to not reveal Mohamed’s homosexuality. His mother was subsequently beaten in the street by a homophobic mob.

“Being trained as an imam (a Muslim priest), Mohamed had an extra special reason to fear exposure as gay. He would be barred from working in future as an imam and would face savage, possibly deadly, retribution for bringing shame to the Islamic religion. A fatwa has been issued against him in his home country. His mother has informed me that if he returns to his homeland she fears he will be executed for being gay.

“Since Mohamed’s silence about his homosexuality and the homophobic nature of the attack on him has failed to protect him, his partner and his family from violent attack, he has now decided to go public about the true reasons for the violence against him.

“From early 2000, Mohamed says he and his partner Junda were subjected to more than two years of homophobic intimidation, harassment and death threats by a group of Asian men who discovered they were gay.

“Mohamed says the threats and insults against him were incessant. They included shouts in the street and phone calls like: “Hey, gay boy!”, “You will be dead”, “You are definitely going to die”, “You are a dead man walking”, “We will kill you” and so on.

“On Mohamed’s 24th birthday, in 2001, a card was shoved through his letter box. It said: “Happy birthday gay… As you will be dead soon, enjoy for now”.

“In May 2002, Mohamed received an anonymous letter with quotations from the Qur’an that condemned homosexuality. The letter said that being gay was against the Islamic religion, that Allah gave them the right to kill homosexuals and that it was their duty to do Allah’s will.

“His life had become intolerable and the constant threats had made him a nervous wreck. He was living in fear of being killed.

“According to Mohamed, on the night of 29 June 2002 and the early morning of 30 June 2002, some of the men who he said had been threatening him, and who later attacked him, made a series of abusive, homophobic phone calls. The abuse included insults against Mohamed like “poof”, “animal”, “diseased” and “sick”.

“At 3am on 30 June 2002, these men forced their way into his house in Manor Park, east London, armed with a knife and wooden sticks.

“Mohamed staved off the alleged attacker’s blows and their attempts to stab him.

“In the chaotic fracas, which took place in semi-darkness, two of the attackers received knife wounds. Over a year later (after Mohamed’s trial and conviction) one of the attackers died. It is unclear whether his death was directly related to the knife wounds he received.

“Mohamed is adamant that he is innocent.

“Mohamed’s only defence witness, Ramesh, was subjected to intimidation by people he believes were possibly friends of the prosecution witnesses (the alleged attackers). He says the police twice refused his request for witness protection. For his own safety, he has now had to move to a secret address in a different part of the country.

“Mohamed has no previous convictions, and is a person of exemplary character. He studied as an imam, and leads Friday prayers in prison when the regular imam is unavailable. He is regarded as a model prisoner, who has passed all his sentence plans, gained more than a dozen certificates, and provided spiritual and welfare support to fellow inmates. He is highly respected by prison officers and fellow inmates.

“Mohamed is deeply traumatised. He is suffering from severe post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Even after nearly four years in jail, and repeated requests, the prison has failed to provide him with psychological counselling,” said Mr Tatchell.

Note: Mohamed’s full name, nationality and the name of his prison cannot be revealed because he is at serious risk of homophobic attack in jail, and his family, friends and witnesses are all in grave danger of violent retribution by Muslim fundamentalists. The police have previously failed to protect Mohamed’s witnesses.