x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Family of Al Qaeda's recruiter faces eviction from UK home

Munir Farooqi, 54, was found guilty of using his terraced home in Manchester to brainwash young men into becoming jihadists.

LONDON // Three generations of a Muslim family in Britain face eviction from their home because the head of the household has been convicted of being a recruiting sergeant for Al Qaeda.

For the first time in British history, police in Manchester have elected to take legal action to seize a terrorist's home after Munir Farooqi, 54, received four life sentences at his trial in September.

Pakistani-born Farooqi, who came to Britain with his parents when he was 4, was found guilty of using his terraced home in Manchester to brainwash young men into becoming jihadists. He was only caught when two of his recruits turned out to be undercover policemen.

Greater Manchester Police have now initiated legal action for the forfeiture of the house, which is home to Farooqi's wife, children, their spouses and his eight-month-old grandchild.

A local campaign, involving the Muslim community and a Christian Baptist church, has now been started to stop the family being evicted. On Tuesday, a 5,000-signature petition was handed in at Manchester Town Hall.

British police were given power to seek the forfeiture of a convicted terrorist's home under the Terrorism Act of 2000. Until now, however, no force has attempted to implement the clause.

Greater Manchester Police Assistant Chief Constable Dawn Copley said in a statement: "Munir Farooqi is a convicted terrorist. Most of the terrorism acts took place at the family home.

"After very careful consideration, Greater Manchester Police and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) have decided to proceed with an application for a forfeiture order, but the court will make the final decision."

That court case will not be heard until March but, in the interim, campaigners are pressing police to drop the legal action.

One of the campaign leaders, the Rev Gary Serra di Migni, a local Baptist minister, said: "Munir Farooqi does not own the house, it's in the name of his wife. The five adult members of the family have been given notice that the CPS is applying for forfeiture. They, Munir's eight-year-old daughter and eight-month-old granddaughter, are to be made homeless, and the council will have the responsibility of rehousing them.

"They are innocent. They are all living together, and they are to be split up. Already they feel persecuted, broken and demonised."

Farooqi's daughter Zulaika, 28, told reporters: "Leaving three generations of a family homeless, including an eight-month-old baby, is disgusting. It's not British law, it's just wrong and inhumane. We have so much public support against this, not just from the Muslim community but also from non-Muslims too."

Her brother, Harris Farooqi, who was acquitted of a charge of preparing for an act of terrorism at the same trial as his father, said in a statement: "I have been through hell for the past two years. I cannot believe what the police are doing to me and my family. We just want to live in peace and want the CPS to reconsider its application for the forfeiture of our home."

The house was where Farooqi took his recruits for indoctrination after contacting them through the market stall he ran.

He targeted young British men he hoped to convert to his radical version of Islam. Two of them - one a former soldier and the other an estate agent - were convicted at Farooqi's four-month trial at which he was found guilty of charges of soliciting murder, preparing for acts of terrorism and distributing terrorists publications.

Farooqi was an active supporter of the Taliban and travelled to Afghanistan in 2001 where he was arrested in November of that year. He was released seven months later and returned to the UK.

The campaign to save his family from being evicted, "Save the Family Home", said in a statement: "We are absolutely outraged that the police would consider destroying family life of innocent people. In our opinion, the action which could lead to the eviction of innocent people from their family home is in all the circumstances inhumane and makes no sense at all.

"This will damage police and community relations."

 

dsapsted@thenational.ae