By Salim Alaradi
Attempts made by media to construct a connection between the campaign over my unjust jailing in the UAE and last year’s bomb attack in Manchester are farcical.
In late 2014, I disappeared and was unjustly detained by the United Arab Emirates’ security agency until I was exonerated and freed by the UAE Supreme Court in 2016. The tragedy that I lived through in the Emirati secret prisons has left irreversible scars that I try to cope with each day.
Not many Canadian teenagers get to experience the trauma of having their father disappeared and tortured by a foreign government, but my daughter Marwa did. My family’s desperation for my freedom and safe return started with a single article in a small newspaper in Windsor, Canada, by Marwa and ballooned into a viral, international campaign.
Many international media outlets reported on the unfolding campaign for my freedom until I was reunited with my loved ones.
In the midst of my disappearance, Marwa’s global campaign began to coalesce to create serious political pressure for my freedom. Despite her academic ambitions, Marwa shelved her schooling and travelled the world meeting with human rights groups, United Nations special rapporteurs, and advocating for the Canadian government to intervene.
A day did not go by where she didn’t remind the world on social media of my suffering. She generated worldwide media and wrote op-eds at the age of 17. Without this international effort, that woke up large segments of the global mainstream, I don’t think I would be a free man today.
Since my freedom, I have discovered the extent of the global mobilisation that took place. During the campaign, many protests took place in different cities with hundreds of supporters who do not know me and I do not know them, but their mere belief in universal values of human rights and justice inspired them to appeal for my freedom.
With this in mind, it’s been particularly upsetting to see articles in the Libyan news outlet AlMarsad, attempts to construct a farcical connection between my daughter’s campaign and last year’s terrorist plot in Manchester.
This news article, which distorts an earlier BBC article on the bombing, then became the basis for an article in another Libyan news outlet Almotawaset and an Italian outlet Speciale Libia, among other dubious outlets.
A confounding logic
The Speciale Libia piece points out that the troubled young man behind the bombing in Manchester attended a protest in London, England calling for the release of ten Libyan businessman unjustly imprisoned by the UAE, including myself. This particular protest was organised by the local London community.
Almarsad and Almotawaset go farther and essentially suggest that since the man responsible for Manchester just so happened to have attended that rally, then the campaign for my freedom must also have been affiliated with the future acts of this young man.
It’s a line of thinking that defies logic.
The pieces then bend over backwards even more. They point out that a man named Mustafa Graff, who is alleged to know the Manchester bomber (yet has publicly denied knowing him), also volunteered for an NGO called the “Libyan Association for Victims of Torture and Enforced Disappearance in UAE” (LAVTEDU) – an organisation that advocated for the freedom of several Libyans detained in the UAE.
Such a connection, according to these news outlets, is further evidence that my campaign had affiliations to the Manchester bomber. Neither myself or anyone in my family actually know any of these men.
A sad state
But that aside, Almarsad and Almotawaset insult their audience by forging lies via “four degrees of association” between our human rights campaign, LAVTEDU, the volunteer, and the Manchester bomber in order to affiliate the campaign to Manchester. Nothing could be more absurd.
By that confounding logic, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the UN and countless other organisations and individuals around the world, to whom I am forever grateful, must also be serving some terrorism plot by standing up for my freedom.
In fact, why stop there? It was the UAE Supreme Court itself that eventually examined the charges brought against me (alongside that of the other Libyan detainees) and decided that they were baseless and that I should be a free man.
It’s an incredibly sad state of affairs for the segment of the media who are happy to publish uncorroborated reports that amount to yellow journalism and fake news.
At the end of the day, I’ve always been proud of the FreeSalimAlaradi human rights campaign. But it’s appalling for me, and on the verge of slander, to see websites like AlMarsad taint my daughter’s efforts with baseless rumours, all to exploit political divisions among Libyans.
Salim Alaradi is a Canadian-Libyan businessman, civil engineer and property developer. He is the Chairman of Hommer International, a multinational company that manufactures and distributes air-conditioners and home appliances.