No apology over Nation of Islam arrest

- Jagdeo

Guyana will not be apologising to Nation of Islam member, Akbar Muhammad for his recent arrest and detention on suspicion of involvement in drugs and terrorism here, since the police were acting on intelligence, President Bharrat Jagdeo said yesterday.

In late May, Muhammad, 68, who is the ministerial and administrative assistant to the leader of the Nation of Islam Louis Farrakhan, along with his Canadian-based Guyanese friend and a local barber were taken into custody by the police but were released without charge after spending a night in the lock-ups. Afterward, he demanded a public apology from the Guyana Police Force and the government. He has since returned to the USA.

Responding to a question yesterday at a press conference at the Office of the President, Jagdeo said that the police had “information which led to some intelligence being developed that there are several things happening in Guyana.”

“Some turned out to be true, and we have charged two persons for treason…and I read the report and it is pretty solid and damning about some tentacles,” he said.  The President said that “the security forces have to check everything that comes across their desk when it deals with national security matters.”

Jagdeo said that Farrakhan had contacted him and according to the president he “assured him that we don’t lock up innocent people in this country but we have to go through a process…You have to go through the process, the security forces have to be satisfied, and if this gentleman is innocent …that we’ll try to expedite the processing of the gentleman…which is what the security forces did,” he said.

“I’m told that they are still investigating several matters,” Jagdeo, however, added, even as he stressed that he does not interfere in the work of the police.

Jagdeo emphasised that he will not be apologizing, given the circumstances of Muhammad’s arrest.  “If I had to request [an apology] from the US government for   the number of people who were held wrongfully, it would never end,” he said. “The Minister of Housing [Irfaan Ali], because…. he has a Muslim name, every time he travels with me, even with me he gets into difficulties,” Jagdeo said. “Almost every time he travels through the US. We have written to the US, they don’t do anything about it. This is a sitting minister of the government,” he said.

“We at least treat people differently, a little bit more dignified,” he said.  “So there’ll be no apology or anything of the sort in the context that I mentioned… Even if he is innocent, we don’t have an innocent man in prison,” he added.

Muhammad was arrested around 1:30 am on May 19 at the Princess Hotel, where he was staying. His friend, Philip Simon, called Philip Muhammad, of Ontario, Canada was detained just after lunch, when he turned up at CID Headquarters to check on Muhammad. Later that same day, investigators detained Simon’s barber, 27-year-old Tyrone Seymour of Cove and John, East Coast Demerara, when he turned up at the station with water and a book for the two men. Muhammad had visited Guyana on several occasions before his trip.

Speaking to reporters following his release from police custody, Muhammad demanded a public apology from the Guyana Police Force and the government. While expressing his belief that his detention and that of his friends was politically-motivated, he stressed that the incident could tarnish his good name in the international community which he has been serving for the last five decades. “My pain is that I know people all over the world and for my picture to be on CNN early this morning all over the world… is painful,” he said.

He also lamented that the press ran with the story without getting “the other side.”  He later said that this “defamation of his character” could stop him from earning an income, while pointing out that it creates a bad impression with the colleges and programmes where he has to deliver addresses. “So I need an apology from CID and if it goes to the government… That’s my position on that,” he said.

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