By Latoya Giles
Nation of Islam Advisor, Akbar Muhammad, and Guyana-born Canadian citizen, Phillip Simon, are contemplating legal action against the Guyana Police Force after they were released without being charged on allegations of terrorist acts and drug trafficking.
Minister Muhammad was arrested at the Princess Hotel, Providence, East Bank Demerara in the wee hours of Thursday morning while Simon was arrested a short distance from the Criminal Investigations Department, Eve Leary. East Coast Demerara resident Tyrone Seymour, who was also arrested, was also released without charge yesterday.
Just two hours after their release, the trio along with their attorney Nigel Hughes, held a press briefing at Hughes’s Hadfield Street Office.
Recounting his arrest at the Princess Hotel, Mohammad, who is the advisor to Nation of Islam Leader, Louis Farrakhan, said that he was in his hotel room when someone began banging on his door.
Muhammad said that he refused to open the door because he didn’t know who the visitors were.
“Finally I pushed my identification card under the door, then they asked for Simon because the room is in his name,” the minister explained.
According to the US citizen, the officers threatened to break the door down, and he asked them to allow him to get dressed.
When he opened the door Muhammad said that the police ranks alleged that they were in receipt of information from the Central Intelligence Agency that he was in Guyana to plan a terrorist act and to organize people for it.
He said that the police never mentioned the drug trafficking allegation.
According to Muhammad, two Caucasians were present during his arrest at the hotel. He told reporters that he asked the men if they were from the CIA, but they did not respond to his query.
According to Muhammad, the two men stayed behind, and this caused him to become skeptical because he was afraid something might be planted in his room.
He was then taken into custody.
“They (the police) asked me about who I knew in Guyana. Other than the mayor I know no one else. I hope it’s not politics because our country is on the international scene.
“They asked four times, four different people and the same questions and I prayed that Guyana would do things differently.
“They asked how many children I have, where did I go to school, what was my reason for travel…..and one interesting question they asked was which political leader I met with or if I was member of a political party….I’m not a citizen so how could I belong to a party?” the minister said.
“It made me think that they were concerned that I was coming down at the Election year and I had something to do with the political dynamics.”
“This is my fifth or sixth trip to Guyana and I find the allegations simply outrageous,” the minister stated.
Muhammad was detained at the Brickdam Police Station lockups. The Islamic Minister said he was absolutely taken aback by the conditions there.
He said that the only place where he had seen such conditions was in Ghana. The Minister said it was almost impossible to sleep while he was detained.
Muhammad told journalists that he was in Guyana to hold talks with youths about social challenges, something which he has been doing for the past 51 years.
He explained that Mr. Simon (the other detainee) who had heard him speak in Montreal last year, invited him to come speak to the youths in Guyana.
“I became Muslim when I was 18 years under Malcolm X in New York, and our sole trust of work is to help people,” Muhammad told the media.
When asked about the laws surrounding his arrest, the minister opined that this country’s laws may have been made at a time when it was necessary for the police to detain people, but in modern times you have to deal with human rights abuse.
According to Minister Muhammad, the most painful part of the entire episode was having his family wake up and seeing his photo on CNN early yesterday morning stating that he was arrested for terrorism and drug pushing in Guyana.
“I’ve travelled throughout the world with Minister Farrakhan’s ministry and never encountered something like this.”
The minister described the matter as a disinformation campaign and he could not say where it came from. “It could have been directed to Farrakhan and also I think it could be politically motivated.
“I would be 69 years old in two weeks…Why would I come to Guyana at my age and be involved in drugs and terrorism, something I’ve preached against for years?”
“First thing I thought it was because I was Muslim (that) I was singled out. I come to speak to your children about current dynamics and now I’m locked up.”
Muhammad said he contacted his congressman and officials from the US Embassy came over. He also disclosed that his leader, Minister Louis Farrakhan, contacted President Bharrat Jagdeo.
The minister further stated that he is thankful that he had an unblemished record in the US, because “this defamation which I was faced with stops me from earning a living.”
“I have college engagements and programmes overseas which I have lined up and when these people pick up and read this, they going to say I’m involved in terrorism…I definitely need an apology from the police and government because of erroneous reports,” the minister stressed yesterday.
When asked about if he would continue his mission here in Guyana, the minister said that he was asked by the police about his feelings about this country and he told them that the jury was still out.
“I feel terrible…the jury is out on that. I’ve suffered here, even though I came with the goodness in my heart.
“I wasn’t paid to come here and then I’m arrested…then they arrested Simon who came to visit me, then his barber who is a Seventh Day Adventist who came to bring us water and a book. I find something very wrong with that,” said the minister.
The minister said that his returning to Guyana depends on whether he feels welcomed and if he receives a proper apology.
And commenting on his client’s arrest, attorney Nigel Hughes said that the case drove home the consent complaints about the 72-hour detention.
He said that the case shows the error of judgment when the constitution was amended and gave the police the right to arrest people and keep them for 72 hours.
“It means that if people are picked on Friday the person has to remain in custody for 72 hours. The arrest doesn’t have to be lawful.
“This afternoon when I went before the judge with a Habeas Corpus motion. The judge said that the 72 hours was not up.”
Hughes said that he enquired from the judge if the police pull someone off the road without just cause does that mean the victim have to languish in jail for 72 hours. The judge answered in the affirmative, he said. “ I was absolutely taken aback.”
Hughes said that he does not believe law officials have the power to detain citizens without the possibility of the judiciary addressing it.
The judiciary has not been demonstrative in highlighting this.
Minister Akbar Muhammad is an International Representative for the Nation of Islam. He has offices and residences in Accra, Ghana, and the United States.
He has travelled extensively around the world, mainly in North, West and South Africa.
He lectures to civic organizations, students and business leaders about the advantages of doing business and traveling in Africa and the Caribbean.
Minister Muhammad’s extensive work and travel in Africa are reflected in his column, “Africa and the World” which is featured weekly in several newspapers internationally.
Muhammad has been regarded as one of the most knowledgeable individuals on the life and works of Minister Louis Farrakhan.
He is currently working on Minister Farrakhan’s biography and on the history of the Nation of Islam from 1930 – 1985.
Minister Louis Farrakhan Muhammad is the leader of the Chicago, Illinois-based Nation of Islam (NOI).
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