Friday September 25, 2020
A FORMER youth worker from Kentish Town who was stripped of his British citizenship before being “rendered” to the United States and charged with aiding a terrorist group has been released. Mahdi Hashi was led out of a detention centre in Chicago, before being flown to Somalia, on Thursday.
The 31-year-old had served half of a nine-year sentence after pleading guilty to “providing material support” to the militant group Al Shabaab between 2008-2012.
The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) described Mr Hashi as a “Somali man” although he grew up in Gilbey’s Yard, Chalk Farm, and had held a British passport for many years.
Mr Hashi had been among a group of Somali-born men living in Camden who claimed they were harassed by MI5 agents who wanted them to become informers. The original charges brought against Mr Hashi were that he had worked as an “elite suicide bomber” intent on waging chemical warfare against the United States and establishing an Islamic caliphate.
When he was convicted of the lesser charges, his family had said they were “sad to be rejoicing” having expected a life sentence of closer to 30 years. Mr Hashi’s family had fled the civil war in Somalia as asylum seekers when he was aged five.
He went to Primrose Hill and Rhyl primary schools and appeared in the New Journal photographed alongside the former Mayor of Camden collecting a good behaviour certificate in the Town Hall. He passed his GCSEs at Haverstock and began working as a carer for the disabled.
He also did youth work at the Kentish Town Community Centre. His family and friends always maintained, however, that he was deeply affected by approaches made by MI5.His sister, Fatuma, had told the New Journal in 2012: “They would show him books with photos of Muslim men from the Camden community. Some of his friends were asked to do the same. They were not just asking him to watch them, he was asked to ring them up and talk in conversation with them about Jihad – and to see what they say.”
Complaining to the Investigatory Powers Tribunal in 2011, Mr Hashi had said: “I myself am sick and tired of this cycle of savage harassment for the last three years to the point where they are making me a terror suspect.”
He accused MI5 of “blatant blackmail” and told the tribunal he felt he would always be presumed guilty unless he cooperated.
Sharhabeel Lone, the then chairman of Kentish Town Community Organisation, said: “These disgraceful incidents have undermined 10 years of hard work and severely impacted social cohesion in Camden. When people are terrorised by the very same body that is meant to protect them, sowing fear, suspicion and division, we are on a slippery slope to an Orwellian society.”
The late MP for Holborn and St Pancras, Frank Dobson, had suggested MI5’s methods “may be counter-productive”.
While he was in Somalia in 2012, Theresa May, the then foreign secretary, stripped him of his citizenship in a move that was at the time condemned by human rights lawyers including Baroness Helena Kennedy, who represented Mr Hashi in his appeal against Ms May’s ruling.
She told the New Journal how Mr Hashi was “exposed to illegality and an abuse of human rights” and had been picked up in Somalia by “secret police” before being “subjected to lengthy interrogation by CIA operatives then hooded and flown to the USA”. Court documents later revealed how he had been held for three months in a cell in Djibouti with five other “near-naked men
”. He was made to watch his co-defendants “hung upside down and beaten with computer cables” and had to “drink from the toilet as the only means of sustaining themselves”.
Mr Hashi in 2016 was captured alongside Ali Yasin Ahmed and Mohamed Yusuf, both from Sweden, who were sentenced to 11 years for conspiring to provide material support to al Shabaab.