Samar Alami and Jawad Botmeh A Palestinian man and woman jailed in 1996 for 20 years
for a crime they did not commit. The following is the Foreward to their story written
by Paul Foot the journalist and copied from the Freedom & Justice for Samar & Jawad
site. At the bottom of this article you will find a link to that site so that you
can study the mass of other information available.
FOREWARD written by Paul Foot.
I AM a sceptical sort of chap, especially about British justice, but when I first
head about the case for Samar Alami and Jawad Botmeh, I didn’t believe a word of
it. I mean, just consider. Two young Palestinians, both passionately committed to
their cause, had been accused of being involved in the bombing of the Israeli embassy
in London and some Zionist offices. The two freely admitted dabbling in explosives
and storing them in a lock-up. Even if they denied any connection with the lock-up,
their fingerprints were all over it. The connection between their arrest for involvement
in the bombings and their connection with explosives was, it seemed, decisive. I
felt political sympathy for the two accused, and distress at the enormous sentences
they faced. But for many months, as their long ordeal unwound at trial, I was not
at all persuaded, let alone convinced, of their innocence.
Some months after their conviction, impressed by the obdurate determination of Samar’s
sister Randa and the rest of her family, and struck by the curious statement from
the former MI5 agent David Shayler that British intelligence had been warned in advance
about the bombing, I went on Sunday morning to see the two prisoners’ solicitor,
Gareth Peirce. I have known Gareth for twenty years or so and have some experience
of her intense loyalty to her clients. This loyalty, however, I knew for certain,
never extended to lying or cheating. “If they are innocent,” I started hesitantly.
“Oh, they are innocent,” she replied at once, and told the following story.
At the time of the bombing, Samar was making a phone call from a public phone box.
When she was first arrested, she had no idea of the fact, and could not remember
where she was. When she did remember, she thought the phone box episode to be irrelevant.
She did not know that calls from the phone box, most unusually, were recorded. Now
think, says Gareth. The recorded phone call proves Samar was not at the Israeli embassy
at the time of the bombing. If she had anything to do with the planning of the bombing,
she would have made sure she could prove where she was. The fact that she could prove
where she was, but didn’t know she could, was surely extraordinary. For a person
guilty of an atrocity to have a cast-iron alibi and not to know it was, surely, unique.
This was not, of course, conclusive — nothing like it. But it made me think again.
Any serious thinking about this case leads one to the conclusion that dabbling in
some explosives does not prove involvement with a specific explosion. No one could
connect the explosives used by Samar and Jawad to the explosives used at the embassy.
Indeed, there was no direct evidence of any kind to link the two young people to
the bombings. The more I read, the more questions I asked, the more it seemed that
the involvement of these two young people with the explosives had nothing to do with
the bombing of the embassy. Instead, their involvement may have been the reason why
suspicion fell on them in the first place. Could it have been their commitment to
the Palestinian cause and their dabbling in explosives to help Palestinians in the
Occupied Territories defend themselves that had marked them out as fall guys for
an outrage which had all the hallmarks of an international terrorist bombing?
Reading the judge’s long summing up in this case, I was struck by the fact that the
mysterious central figure in the story did not appear at the trial. The man known
as “Mughrabi” who persuaded Jawad to go with him to buy the bomb car and who had
handed Samar a bag of explosives had vanished into thin air. The authorities could
not find him. At one stage the judge even suggested he might never have existed (this
was nonsense — there were witnesses to prove that two men, not one, bought the bomb
car). The more you study this case, the more it becomes clear that Samar and Jawad
were set up by a person or persons far more resourceful that they. If the bombing,
like almost all embassy bombings, was carried out by agents of a foreign power, then
it seemed more than likely that the two prisoners had been fingered long before the
bombing as the people who would be blamed for it.
In the summer of 1998, I met David Shayler, then on the run in France. He told me
he had seen a note by a senior MI5 officer which expressed the view that the Israelis
had bombed their own embassy in order to win more freedom of action from British
intelligence. Shayler is not a fantasist. Pretty well everything he has told British
journalists has turned out to be true. I don’t have to believe the Israelis were
responsible for the bombing — indeed I am still sceptical about that. But I do think
that the bombing was the work of intelligence agencies far more powerful than anything
Samar and Jawad could ever put together.
The case for innocence (and the set-up) of these two young prisoners is meticulously
set out in Daniel Guedalla’s pamphlet. The author helped prepare the prisoners’ legal
case, and attended most of the trial. It is almost impossible for anyone to read
his work and be “sure” (as juries have to be) of the defendants’ guilt. Indeed, it
is hard not to conclude firmly that they are innocent.
This is not an academic exercise, a test for legalistic brains. The story is about
two young people who cared passionately about the desperate fate of their people
at the hands of a brutal occupying power, who tried to do something about it and
in the process got caught in a web which had been set out for them. They should be
released. If you read this pamphlet and are even partly convinced by it, you should
do something, however small, to haul Samar Alami and Jawad Botmeh out into the light.
For a start, there is a powerful campaign, which you can join at once.
Go to www.freesaj.org.uk to read more about the campaign to free these two people.