Monday, 29 November 2010

How a Victorian industrialist helped Kate Middleton's parents

Kate Middleton's journey from ordinary middle class girl to future princess has all the elements of a romantic fairytale.

Kate Middleton's journey from ordinary middle class girl to future princess has all the elements of a romantic fairytale.
Kate's great great grandfather, Francis Martineau Lupton built a huge fortune which he left to his family when he died in 1921 Photo: PA
But Ms Middleton's rise to the ranks of the aristocracy would not have been possible without the hard-headed foresight of a Victorian industrialist and philanthropist.
Ms Middleton's great great grandfather holds the key to how the daughter of an airline pilot and a flight attendant managed to attend one of the most expensive independent schools in the country, with fees of £29,000 a year.
An old fashioned, careful, entrepreneur he determined that his children, and his children's children, should have the best education money can buy and set up a family trust worth millions of pounds to pay for it.
Kate's parents now live in a £1 million house in Berkshire are said to have made a small fortune in recent years from the family's mail order business selling children's party supplies.
But it is these family trusts, set up around 100 years ago, which are thought to have enabled the future Princess to attend Marlborough College which led on to St Andrews University where she met Prince William.
At their inception the trusts controlled a Victorian property empire in and around Leeds and benefited from income from a large numbers of rented houses, textile and engineering factories and a fashionable new "arcade" style shopping centre - one of the first outside London.
From the outset the trustees looking after its administration were instructed to pay its beneficiaries the profits and also to fund their children's education.
The current value of these trusts is unknown, although new details are expected to be revealed when the estate of Kate's late grandfather, Peter Middleton, is probated.
However, what is known, is that when the trusts were established the intention was to invest the money from the property empire wisely to ensure it long outlasted the man who created it.
The trust was set up by Kate Middleton's great great grandfather, Francis Martineau Lupton, a wealthy Yorkshire mill owner, who built a huge fortune which he left to his family when he died in 1921.
Francis Lupton had been a city councillor and an alderman in Leeds at the beginning of the 20th Century, and was the first chairman of the city's unhealthy areas committee which was responsible for clearing away the city's slums.
He was a member of the breakaway Liberal Unionists, who were opposed to Home Rule for Ireland proposed by the Liberal Prime Minister William Gladstone, and joined the ranks of the Conservative Party in 1895.
With his three brothers, who between them also helped found Leeds University and expand the city's General Infirmary hospital, he ran the family's successful textile manufacturing business William Lupton & Company, which had been built up by their father.
Francis Lupton lived in a grand Victorian mansion, which still stands on Elmete Lane, in the Roundhay area of the city.
A history of Leeds records that the Lupton family had for generations been associated with "the commercial, municipal, educational and religious life" of the city.
And his 1921 will, obtained by the Sunday Telegraph, shows his personal estate was worth £70,538 - equivalent to about £1.5 million today.
However, crucially, apparently to avoid death duties, it also shows that the vast bulk of his fortune - including his share in the family business - had already been transferred to a family trust which is still apparently paying an undisclosed income to his descendents today.
Mr Lupton ordered his trustees to invest this large fortune wisely and to "accumulate the residue of the said income in the way of compound interest by investing the same and the resulting income thereof to the intent that such accumulations shall be added to the principal".
The will does not list all the property he had put into trust but reveals it will benefit from the income from "real or leasehold properties" which his trustees should "generally manage...according to their absolute discretion".
And it also controlled an unspecified investment portfolio which the trustees are asked to maintain by investing further "in any of the modes of investment authorised by law for trust money or on a real or personal property".
The trust, the will discloses, also controlled his quarter share in family business, William Lupton and Company, and a stake in another firm, the New Briggate Arcade Company.
The company had been formed in the late 19th Century to build a new shopping centre in Leeds city centre - The Grand Arcade.
Still standing today, but now overshadowed by the city's modern shopping malls and department stores, when it opened in 1898, The Grand Arcade was at the heart of the city's most fashionable commercial district.
Taking its name from the nearby Grand Theatre, it was designed by local architects Smith and Tweddle, and featured two two-storey parallel rows of shops, joined by a shorter row under a glass roof.
In 1920, one avenue of shops was closed and trasnformed into a cinema. A covenant, registered at the time by Mr Lupton's firm, and still on the property register, "henceforth" prohibited the "carry on" of "any noisy noxious or offensive trade" in the property.
Centrepiece of the design of the Grand Arcade is a clock which features a dial mounted between two knights in armour who strike the quarter hour.
On the hour a door opens and five figures mounted on a revolving stage emerge. There is a British Grenadier Guardsman, a Scotsman, an Irishman, a Canadian, and an Indian. As the stage rotates they disappear into a door on the right hand side of the clock, and a cockerel, above the dial, nods its head, flaps its wings and crows.
The New Briggate Arcade Company finally sold its stake in the arcade in 1938 to the owners of the cinema.
This fortune was inherited by Mr Luton's two daughters, one of whom, Olive, is Kate Middleton's great grandmother, although control of the estate was passed to several more distant male relatives.
Francis Lupton had had three sons, who he had groomed to take over the family business. At least two of boys attended Rugby School and Trinty College Cambridge. But both died in the carnage of the First World War.
The roll of honour at Rugby School records how Captain Maurice Lupton, of the West Yorkshire Regiment, was "Killed in Action by a sniper bullet in the trenches at Lille on 19 June 1915".
It also shows how Major Francis Ashford Lupton, also of the West Yorkshire Regiment, who was already a partner in the family firm, was "killed in action at Miraumont on the night of 19 February 1917 when he went out with one man on reconnaissance and did not return". His body was later found and buried in the nearby military cemetery.
His third son, Lionel, died in the battle of the Somme in July 1916.
Francis Lupton's will left "the sum of one hundred pounds as a mark of my affection" to Maj. Lupton's wife and daughter, but noted that they were "otherwise well provided for".
When Olive Middleton died in 1936 her will shows that the family fortune was still intact. It shows she left a personal estate of £52,031 - worth around £2 million today according to the National Archives' "old money currency converter" which takes account of historical inflation.
But it also discloses that by 1936 there were three separate family trusts in operation controlling the bulk of her and her family's fortune.
The will repeats many of the orders left by her father asking her trustees to invest the money wisely and again makes provision to pay for her ancestors' children's education.
In addition it also set up an additional annuity of £200 a year - worth around £7,400 today for her husband, Richard Noel Middleton, and three children, who included Peter Middleton, Kate Middleton's grandfather.
Again the will does not discuss her specific investments, but suggests they included "railway and other company shares" held in the trust.
However, it does disclose that her father's 1921 trust fund had been used to buy two large houses "Fieldhead and "Linden" in the Roundhay area of Leeds, one of the city's more affluent suburbs.
The will leaves "Fieldhead", her marital home, for "the use of my husband" who also received a bequest for "all the motor cars and motor accessories and all the garden stock and effects."
Now with his death, Peter Middleton's share of what is left of the family fortune will pass to his son Michael, Kate's father. Michael Middleton had previously also shared in a £363,232 legacy from his mother Valerie, who left him £100,000 in cash when she died in 2006.
What became of the family business is unclear. Richard Middleton, who died in 1951, had help to run it, but modern day Companies House shows no record of its existence.
The grand houses in Leeds are long since sold and The Grand Arcade's glory days are a faded memory. However, whatever remains in the trust's coffers today, its lasting legacy would seem to be Princess Catherine, future Queen.

Prince on a mission to save World Cup bid

As a search and rescue pilot, Prince William is used to tough assignments, but on Tuesday he flies into Zurich charged with the nearest thing to Mission Impossible: rescuing England’s World Cup bid.

World Cup 2018: FA's television hell for England bid: El Clasico followed by BBC Panorama drama - Prince William and David Beckham
Lionhearted: England need Prince William and David Beckham to pull out all the stops for England's 2018 World Cup bid Photo: GETTY IMAGES
The Prince’s charisma, combined with the political clout of David Cameron and star quality of David Beckham, is the bid team's final throw of the dice ahead of Thursday’s vote to decide who will host the 2018 tournament.
England’s bid is considered third favourite, behind Russia and the joint bid from Spain and Portugal. Only the joint bid from Holland and Belgium is more of an outsider.
Prince William, president of the Football Association, will lead a charm offensive, in the plush meeting rooms of the Bar Au Lac hotel, where Fifa’s 22-man executive committee will be staying.
"He’s really looking forward to meeting these people and telling them why England would be such a fantastic place to host the World Cup," said a spokesman for the Prince.
Mr Cameron will spend two days pressing England’s case, breaking off only to take Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday morning. Beckham, flying in from Australia, where he has been on tour with LA Galaxy, will be joined by past England footballers including Bobby Charlton and Gary Lineker.
The vote takes place amid widespread allegations of Fifa corruption, which culminated in the suspension of two senior officials who were covertly filmed asking for money in exchange for their votes.
A BBC Panorama investigation, to be broadcast tomorrow night, will raise new questions over the probity of football’s governing body. Fifa does not take kindly to criticism and England’s bid team unsuccessfully lobbied the BBC to pull the programme.
A senior Swiss prosecutor has told The Sunday Telegraph that Fifa officials had paid £3.5 million in compensation after admitting taking payments from a marketing company.
The compensation was paid to the Swiss authorities earlier this year in return for them abandoning an investigation into the officials’ alleged role in the collapse of ISL, the marketing company that sold the television rights for the 2002 and 2006 World Cups. A secret deal banned the court from revealing the identities of the Fifa officials involved.
The Swiss-based company went bankrupt in 2001 amid allegations of bribery to sports officials to secure contracts, leaving debts of more than £200 million. Swiss prosecutors said £11.5 million was paid to people involved in the negotiation of rights contracts connected to World Cups and the Olympic Games.
The company’s former executives denied charges of fraud, embezzlement, fraudulent bankruptcy, damaging creditors and falsification of documents, for which each defendant faced up to four and a half years in prison. In 2004, Fifa dropped a criminal complaint, saying it would try to recover £80 million it was owed by ISL through civil proceedings.
However, authorities in the Swiss canton of Zug, headed by magistrate Thomas Hildbrand, launched their own criminal investigation into the agency. A 228-page indictment in 2008 named at least two Fifa executive members.
The case led to bitter clashes between Fifa president Sepp Blatter and other senior officials. At the time a Fifa spokesman admitted: "It was a major crisis. Ninety-two per cent of all revenue that Fifa generates comes from the television rights and the marketing rights for the World Cup."
Last week, Mr Hildbrand issued a statement to The Sunday Telegraph, saying that the case was now closed.
The statement read: "In 2000, Fifa benefited from commissions paid by the ISL group. The individual officials who received the payments did not pass the funds on to Fifa and used the assets for their own purposes.
"Fifa also omitted, for its part, from claiming its entitlement to the net assets of the accused. It was damaged to this extent."
None of the defendants was charged with bribery because it was not an offence under Swiss law at the time. All denied criminal responsibility. They claimed the payments were legitimate business expenses, but agreed to pay restitution amounting to £3.5 million and legal costs.
In June this year, Blatter was cleared of any wrongdoing by the prosecutor in Zug. Fifa considers the case to be closed, but it is expected to be a central feature of tomorrow’s Panorama investigation.
Questions about the bribery allegations were put to Mr Blatter in advance of the programme. It is understood that Mr Blatter, who last night was refusing to be interviewed, was asked whether he took bribes from ISL.
The programme will also draw on an undercover newspaper sting earlier this year that led to the suspension of two Fifa executive committee members, Nigeria’s Amos Adamu and Tahiti’s Reynald Temarii. They were suspended after allegations that they asked for money for projects in return for World Cup votes. Fifa officials called the undercover sting "unethical".
Allegations of favours in return for votes are nothing new, as are claims of horse trading among countries bidding to stage the 2018 World Cup and those trying to host it in 2022. Collusion is against the rules. David Dein, the former Arsenal vice-chairman who is the international president of the English bid, said: "What happens behind the scenes, if people are doing deals with each other, how can you influence that, how can you stop that from going on?"
The 2018 World Cup will go to one of the European bidders – England, Netherlands-Belgium, Russia or Spain-Portugal – while the 2022 event is the subject of bids from Australia, Japan, Qatar, South Korea and the United States.The votes are decided by the Fifa executive committee representing all the different global football confederations. Voting takes place round by round until one bid gains a clear majority. Current predictions suggest the Spanish-Portuguese has eight first-round votes in the bag, with the Russians confident of getting seven and England perhaps picking up four.
The Dutch-Belgian bid, likely to attract only three votes, is expected to be eliminated, leaving England chasing its votes to stay in the running. "You’re in the hands of 22 individuals and one’s got to hope we’ve given them enough ammunition to vote for us," said Mr Dein. England’s bid scored highly with Fifa’s technical inspectors, but the relationships between the bidding nations and individual Fifa executive members are often more important.
Whatever the outcome of the World Cup vote, the game’s governing body is facing calls for a clean-up from candidates such as Prince Ali bin Al Hussein, the son of the late King Hussein of Jordan, who is standing for Fifa on an anti-corruption ticket.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Paul and Rachel Chandler: British mercenaries hired to take on the Somali pirates

The Government is in secret talks to send taxpayer-funded British mercenaries to war torn Somalia to confront the pirates attacking commercial shipping and behind the kidnapping of Paul and Rachel Chandler.

armed Somali pirates: Taxpayer-funded British mercenaries hired to take on the Somali pirates who captured the Chandlers
The controversial plan will see the ex-special forces team sent to train Somali nationals to take on the pirates along the country's lawless coastline Photo: AFP/GETTY
A Sunday Telegraph investigation can reveal that senior Foreign Office officials have held detailed discussions with a British security firm employing former members of the Special Boat Service (SBS) about setting up and running the operation.
The controversial plan – indirectly funded with aid money from British taxpayers – will see the ex-special forces team sent to train Somali nationals to take on the pirates along the country's lawless coastline.
The revelation comes days after the release of the Chandlers, from Tunbridge Wells, who were held hostage by Somali pirates for more than a year after being captured on their yacht while on a retirement sailing holiday.
Acting as "mentors" the ex-SBS men will be allowed to accompany the new crews on patrols going into action in armed encounters with the gangs.
The plan is particularly sensitive because previous attempts to train Somali military recruits have seen them swap sides and join the pirates or Islamic insurgents, taking their weapons and equipment with them.
Operating in fast boats capable of outrunning the pirates' converted fishing vessels, the plan is to retake the coastline and prevent the pirates from putting to sea or returning to shore with kidnap victims.
The operation is seen as essential to protect shipping navigating off the Horn of Africa. Ships currently rely on protection from international naval vessels – including Royal Navy frigates – which are spread too thinly.
Piracy has become so commonplace that conveys of ships are asking for naval escorts through the area while some shipping firms are hiring armed guards to protect their vessels, crews and cargo.
So far this year there have been 164 piracy incidents, with 37 vessels hijacked, around 700 seafarers taken hostage and 12 people killed or injured.
The decision to call in ex-special forces soldiers earning up to £1,500-a-day is highly controversial.
The Foreign Office involvement with 'soldiers of fortune' is reminiscent of the Sandline Affair which saw the department accused of sanctioning the activities of a private military company, Sandline International, breaking an arms embargo to ship weapons to Sierra Leone.
The Foreign Office is leading the way on the plan through its chairmanship of the United Nations Working Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia.
Working group number one, which is overseeing 'military and operation co-ordination', is headed by Chris Holtby, the FCO's Deputy Head of Security Policy.
An internal UN document prepared by Mr Holtby says: "Crimes such as human trafficking are happening with impunity ... security is the key issue."
It adds: "If the authorities ... are not yet able to stop kidnappings, it may be possible to send trainers".
The report, obtained by The Sunday Telegraph, outlines the overall plan to get better "intelligence against pirate bases ashore" and to be "prepared to take action against them".
It says any enforcement has to be done in accordance with international law.
Disagreements between the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia (TFG) and the authorities in Puntland, the region further north along the coast, have delayed the proposal for a "Somali Coast Guard unit equipped with 8 fast patrol craft and 96 personnel and coastal observation teams".
This would be supplemented with a 130-strong battalion of marines for "reconnaissance, surveillance and offensive action".
They are arguing about where the boat crews should come from. The fear is that training local men and handing out equipment, if the crews were not vetted properly, might "exacerbate the existing problem" if those men then joined the pirates.
The Puntland authorities, who are not internationally recognised, want to control the Coast Guard and send their own men to man the patrols and have objected to "the TFG selecting a commercial partner to work with to establish a Coastguard".
But Mr Holtby's report adds: "ensuring accountability" would be "a major requirement for attracting donor support" and that the "consultants", who presented details on plans for a pilot coastguard scheme with the Somali TFG Defence Minister,"recognised the need for due legal process".
An earlier, privately funded, attempt to train a coast guard unit in the region using ex-SAS trainers failed when the money from international donors ran out.
This was followed by three serving Coast Guard members being arrested and jailed after hijacking a Thai fishing trawler that they were supposed to be escorting and demanding a £500,000 ransom. The men claimed their wages had not been paid.
Now Mr Holtby has been involved in discussions with British 'business risk consultants' Drum Cussac, which already supplies armed security teams to shipping companies, to train the new Somali coastguard.
Last night the firm refused to comment, but it is understood it has been hired by the TFG with the international community agreeing to foot the bill.
The money will come from $25 million the US Government have promised to the antipiracy project.
Britain, which has so far not committed "specifically counter-piracy" money, will also contribute from "overlaying of benefits from counter-terrorism, counter-trafficking, migration, development/rule of law" funds.
Drum Cussac, which describes itself as 'the market leader in antipiracy and maritime security', is headed by former Scots Guards officer Jeremy Stampa Orwin.
Mr Stampa Orwin's previous firm Lifeguard shared offices with Sandline and, according to a Parliamentary report, until 1998, had "from time to time" co-operated "with but is otherwise operationally separate".
Drum Cussac says it can 'supply a full range of armed services for the protection of vessels in transit through high risk waters and for static operations or survey work in areas of high threat'.
'Our armed option', it says, 'has been designed to provide fully legitimate, properly licensed and trained teams to deploy on board vessels. Our teams are experienced UK nationals and are equipped with new and modern weapons systems.'
Senior Whitehall sources confirmed Foreign Office officials had met with the security firm involved but insisted it was at the request of the Somali Government. The meetings, the source said, were in line with the strict Government rules on dealing with such firms.
However it was acknowledged that donor cash, including British taxpayers money, would "indirectly" pay for their operation.
Abdallah Boss Ahmed, until recently the Somali defence minister, confirmed he had approved the plan.
He said: "The concept ... involves the contracting of specialist private companies to train, equip and mentor vetted Somali recruits to operate effectively and with respect for ... Human rights in retaking control of (the) ... Somali coast and associated territorial waters."


Millionaire owner of Dubai’s "Little Britain" attacks jail term over bounced cheques.

A British property tycoon, famous for buying a £43 million man-made island in the shape of Great Britain off the coast of Dubai, has branded the Gulf state “backward and unjust” after it jailed him for seven years over a series of bounced cheques.

Safi Qureshi on the island of 'Little Britain'
Safi Qureshi on the island of 'Little Britain' which he bought in 2009 
Safi Qurashi, from Balham, south London, appealed to David Cameron to intervene, claiming he had been wrongly convicted after hearings lasting just a minute each.
Two years ago Mr Qurashi, 41, was featured in Britain’s Got Talent judge Piers Morgan’s ITV programme on how Britons were cashing on the Dubai property boom and becoming overnight millionaires.
But, in a letter from jail, he reveals how, since his arrest, his business collapsed and the strain of the ordeal caused his pregnant wife to lose their baby and his mother to suffer a near-fatal heart attack.
The letter, handed to the Sunday Telegraph by his family, says he was mistreated by the Dubai police, who, he claims, handcuffed him to a chair for eight hours, denied him access to lawyers, and that he was convicted without any chance to put his side of the story. He also claims the Foreign Office have refused to help.
“I could not believe what I was going through,” he wrote. “I kept on thinking this is a modern country, it has laws, it depends on foreign citizens and investment, surely its legal system cannot be this backward and unjust?”
One of 200 Britons jailed in the United Arab Emirates, where the Queen is due to visit later this month, he added: “David Cameron has the power to enforce change. How can we as a nation entertain a regime that allows our citizens to invest money and then (be) jailed?”
He wrote: “We went from having five staff to almost 100 within two years. We started to enjoy the better aspects of life. We sent our kids to the best school in Dubai and we could enjoy amazing holidays. Our business turnover was £600 million.”
His company specialised in beach front properties sought after by stars like David and Victoria Beckham and Rod Stewart, who reportedly invested in the Gulf State as it was transformed into a playground for the rich and famous.
The firm survived the country’s property crash which saw newly built luxury apartment blocks and hotels left empty. But last January, without warning, Mr Qurashi and his business partner were arrested by plain clothes police.
“They told me I was being arrested for bouncing a cheque. They said not to worry, in two hours we would be let go.
“I was held for eight hours in a cell. No phone calls. No lawyer. Then I was kept handcuffed to a chair for another eight hours.
“We were asked two questions: our names and whether we signed the cheques. As I answered yes, we were sent to Port Rashid jail, built to house 80 prisoners, (but with) over 200 people inside.”
“It was shocking. At night it resembled a refugee camp. For our first few days we slept on a concrete floor, taking it in turns to sleep.”
After two days they were met by the prosecutor who said they were being charged over three bounced cheques, made out for millions of pounds.
But Mr Qurashi claims the cheques were handed over as security in a series of property deals and should never have been cashed as the deals had been completed.
The prosecutor said they would face a hearing in two weeks. “Just like that, two weeks in jail,” Mr Qurashi wrote.
“After six days our lawyer arrived. We had been in the same clothes for a week, with no place to wash, no soap or shampoo.”
“The lawyer, who we had hired, omitted to tell us that he was the defence lawyer in a (unconnected) civil case we had filed in 2009. His offer was simple: drop all charges...and I will help you.
“Suddenly the Dubai I knew, trustworthy, clean, crime free, non corrupt, all disappeared.”
Meanwhile Mr Qureshi’s wife, Huma, was struggling, looking after their young children, Sara, 12, Maaria, nine, Yousuf, four, dealing with lawyers and trying to keep the business afloat.
“My wife who was pregnant at the time of my arrest suffered a miscarriage. That was a particularly difficult thing. Trying to suppress the anger and frustration was difficult and the environment in which we were in was not easy.
“We hired a new lawyer who had two five minute with us. He said “this is not England, we do things our way”.
“There were two hearings – each one a minute long and I was sentenced. The judge had not read any of our evidence. I was assumed guilty even before I attended court.”
After his conviction he was transferred to the country’s main jail. Conditions are better, but the other inmates include murderers, rapists and drug dealers.
He has now been in jail for nine months and is allowed to see his wife each week “through a glass window, over a dodgy intercom system”.
His final appeal was dismissed last month. “My children have been told and they cried for days. They wrote me great letters of encouragement, although it is very hard to read them through all the tears that would flow.”
He added: “Dubai boasts that it has a very fast judicial process. That’s right. In a one hour court session a judge hears between 30-40 cases - only 90 seconds per case. Guilty or not guilty. This is the legal system of modern Dubai.”
Last night Mr Qureshi’s family said they had asked for help from the Foreign Office but were told they could not intervene.
His brother Farhan Qurashi said: “They say a lawyer in Dubai has to say due process has not been followed. But no lawyer in Dubai is willing to put their name to that.
“In the meantime my brother rots in jail and his family suffer. This is a terrible miscarriage of justice.”

Safi Qurashi's open letter from Dubai jail cell

Two years ago I shot to fame as the man who bought "Little Britain" in UAE. This is my story of how my Dubai dream became a nightmare.

Safi, right, receiving an award for 'Trusted Real Estate Partner' from
Sheikh Manea Bin Hasher Al Maktoum
Safi, right, receiving an award for 'Trusted Real Estate Partner' from Sheikh Manea Bin Hasher Al Maktoum 
Dubai's property boom had just begun, when I set up a property business, Premier Real Estate Bureau LLC.
We employed five staff and business went so well that within two years we were employing 100. Our name was trusted and our reputation was excellent. We won a business award from Sheikh Manea Al Maktoum - the first in Dubai. All the hard work paid off. We sent our kids to the best school in Dubai and had amazing holidays with our families.
We specialised in beach front properties so when the island of Great Britain became available we snapped it up. We knew that the market was overheated and that a crash was inevitable, so we planned for that. When the Dubai markets did crash in 2009 we were still in a strong position and our business turnover was $1billion.
My life took a dramatic turn on Friday 15th January 2010, when two plain clothed officers arrested me for bouncing a cheque and took me to CID headquarters. I was held for eight hours in a cell, handcuffed like a criminal. No phone calls. No lawyer. Then I was transferred to Jebel Ali police station.
There I was kept handcuffed to a chair for another 8 hours. No-one spoke English. I was asked two questions: my name and whether I signed two cheques. When I answered yes, I was sent to Port Rashid jail at 4am. The prison was built to house 80 prisoners; there were over 200 people inside. There were only four showers and three toilets. People were sleeping on the floor and in the kitchen. At night it resembled a refugee camp. For the first few days I slept on a concrete floor. I had no access to lawyer or phones. When I saw the prosecutor he asked about a cheque to a Russian investor. I told him everything and asked about bail. He said no bail was allowed and he would see me two weeks after he spoke to the Russian.
Just like that, two weeks in jail. Finally, on the fifth day, I was allowed to make a five minute call to my wife. She arrived next day with a solicitor who said don't worry, you will get bail in two or three days. These days were the most difficult. I was in the same clothes for a week, with no place to wash, no soap or shampoo. For a month I slept on the bare floor.
Then the second shock. My solicitor turned out to be the defence lawyer in a (civil) case I had filed earlier against a friend of his. His offer to me was simple: drop all charges against my friend and I will help you. My lawyer and the prosecutor were college buddies and good friends. Suddenly the Dubai I knew - trustworthy, clean, crime free, non-corrupt - vanished.
Then my wife suffered a miscarriage. That was a particularly difficult thing. Nights were lonely. Trying to suppress the anger and frustration was difficult. However, human nature and the sheer will to deal with problems makes you discover qualities you sometimes think you never had. I got a new lawyer who spent five minutes with me. When I said surely he needed input from me, he responded "this is not England, we do things our way". I didn't understand then, what he meant, but now I do. There were two hearings – each one a minute long. Two questions were asked and I was sentenced: a seven year jail term. I realized that the judge had neither read nor reviewed any of the evidence. He did not establish whether I actually broke the law. A cheque bounced. Nothing else was considered. I kept on thinking this is a modern country, it has laws, it depends on foreign citizens and investment, surely its legal system cannot be so backward? Surely they are not this unjust?
I was three months in Port Rashid jail. By the time I left, more than 300 prisoners were being held in that tiny place. I was allowed three phone calls a week each lasting only three minutes. I had to, in these nine minutes, manage my business and my legal affairs, speak to my wife and worry about the wellbeing of her and my children. I had not spoken to my children for three months. The hardest thing was telling my mum, my brothers and my sister where I was.
My wife visited every week but I couldn't bear my mum and children seeing me there. Sometimes you have to put the biggest stone on your heart and carry on with life. This is what I did. I spent my 41st birthday, my wife's 40th, my son's fourth birthday and my 20th wedding anniversary in jail. My children cried for days. They wrote me great letters of encouragement, although some days it was very hard to read them through all the tears that would flow.
But my kids' faces remained strong in my eyes; what are they doing? How are they coping? How will they survive? On April 1 I was moved to the central prison - with murderers, rapists, armed robbers and drug dealers. These are not the people I belong with, I kept on thinking. But at least I had a place to sleep and it was clean. There were only six to a room and we had to share a bathroom. But it was better than sharing with 350.
I hated the indignity of court: being handcuffed and strip-searched. All of your respect and dignity trodden over. Seeing your family in the court room, paraded in front of a full court room in prison uniform. The court of appeal was no better. Dubai boasts that it has a very fast judicial process. That's right. In a one hour court session a judge hears 30-40 cases. The same judge will hear a murder case, drug case, fraud, theft, drink and cheque case all in one hour and decide the outcome of each in only 90 seconds.
There are lots of British and foreign nationals whose businesses and families are struggling. People should see it's dark side beneath the glitz and glamour. I was surrounded by businessmen whose dreams of Dubai were turned into a nightmare as they had been labeled criminals.
My mum is my biggest worry. She is an old lady and suffered a heart attack in the Summer. I had to close my company and people lost their jobs. What took 6 years to build was destroyed in less than 6 months. You feel like screaming, shouting, crying – why will no one listen to me? Where is the British Government? There are over two hundred Brits in jail, most in the same situation. They all came to Dubai to start a new life, 99 percent never had any criminal record. Dubai has branded them criminals. Why is our government allowing this farce to happen?
I hope and pray that someone out there hears our pleas. We are not criminals. All we want is justice.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Did police cutbacks allow extremists to hijack student demonstrations?

The head of the police squad tackling domestic extremism was forced to quit days before anarchist students smashed their way into the Tory Party headquarters, The Sunday Telegraph can reveal.

Did police cutbacks allow extremists to hijack student demonstrations?
Critics last night called for an investigation into the cuts amid fears that they may have contributed to the Metropolitan Police's handling of Wednesday's demonstrations 
Supt Steve Pearl was told to retire as his unit – which investigates violent political activists across Britain – began making multi-million-pound savings as part of government cutbacks in the police.
The unit’s commander, The National Coordinator for Domestic Extremism also retired and has been replaced by his more junior – and less well paid – deputy.
Supt Pearl told The Sunday Telegraph that his departure and that of other senior staff “can’t fail to have had an impact” on the police intelligence gathering operation against extremists.
Critics last night called for an urgent investigation into the cuts amid fears that they may have contributed to the Metropolitan Police’s disastrous handling of Wednesday’s demonstrations.
Intelligence for such protests would normally be provided by the National Extremism Tactical Co-ordination Unit (NETCU), which provides “tactical advice and guidance” on how to deal with any potential disorder.
NETCU’s database contains the names of around 2,000 protesters, including photographs taken at demonstrations and full background details, despite many individuals having no criminal record.
It built up the files after taking over MI5’s covert role watching groups such as the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, trade union activists and Left-wing journalists six years ago.
It also targets animal rights, environmentalism, antiglobalisation or anti-GM crop campaigners and “crime and public disorder linked to extreme Left or Right-wing political campaigns”.
But in the run up to last week’s events NETCU began a major internal reorganisation which will lead to it being merged with two other units tackling domestic extremists, the National Public Order Intelligence Unit and the Confidential Intelligence Unit.
As part of that reorganisation, both the head of NETCU, Supt Pearl, and his boss, National Coordinator, ACC Anton Setchell, have retired in the last two weeks.
Supt Pearl, who helped set up NETCU, said his departure had been forced upon him.
“I would rather have stayed. But I was told my contract was not being renewed.
“It is part of the public service cuts. The three domestic extremism units are being merged. I was told that duplicate posts are being done away with and the merger meant there would be no job for me.”
He added: “I have no idea what the unit’s role was in the run up to the student protests. I was not involved. Normally NETCU would liaise with the local force and offer assistance.
“Intelligence is not an exact science and sometimes it is wrong. But when you lose experienced officers like myself and ACC Setchell it can’t fail to have had an impact
“Between us we have had some 60 years in the police force – ten years on domestic extremism. Ideally, you would not lose all that experience in one go.”
Last night former ACC Setchell confirmed that he too had stepped down. He said: “I’ve retired. It has been planned for some time.
“NETCU is not being shut down but it is facing cutbacks in line with the rest of the public service.”
He added: “I don’t know what information NETCU passed to the Met before these demonstrations. It was not our operation and I was not involved, so I don’t think it is appropriate to comment.”
An internal Metropolitan Police inquiry is investigating why the force were so ill-prepared for the violent scenes at Millbank, near Westminster, which marred the student demonstration against massive increases in university tuition fees.
The central question is why there was apparently no intelligence that anarchists were planning to hijack the event despite evidence that they had been boasting about their plans on the internet.
Patrick Mercer, a former Conservative Homeland Security spokesman, said: “It seems apparent that the Government’s cut backs in policing are already having a negative effect on intelligence gathering. This must be looked at very carefully and with great urgency. Prevention is better than cure.”
Vernon Coaker, the shadow policing minister, said: “We’ve seen again this week that keeping public order requires not only policing at the front line but good intelligence gathering too. We are very concerned that this vital work could be undermined by deep and swift cuts being demanded by the Home Office. This is not the time to be losing some of our most experienced people, but the scale and pace of the government’s cuts are putting the police in an impossible position.”
Last night a spokesman from the office of the National Coordinator for Domestic Extremism confirmed the departures from NETCU. He said that ACC Setchell’s deputy, Detective Chief Supt Adrian Tudway, a former Metropolitan Police officer, had been appointed as the new National Coordinator of Domestic Extremism.
Det Supt Tudway said: “My team and I are keen to maintain the services and support for police forces but are reviewing current unit practices and spending in preparation for budget cuts which are taking place across the public sector.”
A Home Office spokesman confirmed that the policing of domestic extremism was also being re-examined in the light of criticism of the handing of the G20 protests in London.
The threat of violence and criminal damage were used by police as a reason to detain, or “kettle”, protesters during the April 2009 demonstrations.
A bystander, newspaper seller Ian Tomlinson, died shortly after being pushed to the ground by a police officer and two protesters were later awarded thousands of pounds in compensation after the police admitted they had been treated unlawfully.
The Home Office spokesman said: “The Government is working with the police to look at the governance and accountability of domestic extremism policing units in line with the recommendations (of the report into the official policing of the protests).”

The lawyer's son behind the student protests

The son of a leading human rights lawyer who specialises in defending protesters can be revealed as one of the main organisers of the anarchist groups accused of sparking the violent attack on Tory headquarters last week.

Anarchist flags at a demo
Mr Sielman-Parry called on his comrades to bring red and black anarchist flags them on the march Photo: CORBIS
The 22-year-old arranged for groups of radical students and workers from around the country to meet up at last week's march against Government increases in student fees, calling for "direct action".
History student Karl Sielman-Parry, who uses the alias "WorkersDreadnought", said a "workers and students' bloc" should band together rather than go along with the official National Union of Students' march.
He distributed a leaflet stamped with the anarchist "A" symbol calling for "Direct Action!, Occupation!, Strike".
Writing on a radical internet site on 3 November, Mr Sielman-Parry said: "We intend to be a visible anti-capitalist presence on the demonstration pointing out that it is capitalism that has caused the crisis, we need to reciprocate: meeting cuts with direct action – occupations, strikes and civil disobedience."
Mr Sielman-Parry's father is Richard Parry, a consultant solicitor at leading human rights firm BSB Law. Mr Parry was part of the defence team working on the 1987 PC Blakelock murder trial.
He has defended pro-drugs activists, protesters accused of disorder and rioting on May Day and several people claiming they were victims of police brutality during the G8 summit in Genoa in 2001.
There is no suggestion Mr Sielman-Parry was involved in anything unlawful during Wednesday's demonstration, which saw protesters smash their way into the Tory Party headquarters on Millbank, near Westminster.
But many of the protesters involved in the violence carried anarchist banners which Mr Sielman-Parry had called on his comrades to bring with them on the march.
He wrote: "Bring red and black flags, banners and propaganda. The student and workers movement needs anarchist ideas and methods more than ever if we're to beat the cuts."
The revelations came as Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister, cancelled a planned visit to Oxford University on Wednesday (Nov 17).
It had been feared he would be greeted by thousands of students protesting against his party's U-turn on increasing tuition fees.
At the same time the rebellion within the Liberal Democrat party over the rise in fees received a boost yesterday when members elected an avowed opponent of the Coalition's policy as their new president.
Tim Farron promised to ensure the party's "distinctive and radical voice" is heard.
Mr Sielman-Parry had been urging his fellow radicals to take part in the March since the end of October.
On 26 October he wrote: "Yeah this is gona be a big one. I think SF [Solidarity Federation] and AF [Anarchist Federation] are meant to be calling for a radical/militant education workers/student/wotever u want to call it bloc.
"There was also some discussion ... about producing a leaflet for distribution on the demo ... dont know whats come of that though. Either way we should spread the call out far and wide."
Mr Sielman-Parry, who also uses the alias "Karl Sacco-Vanzetti", after two Italian anarchists executed for murder in America in 1927, used the internet to contact anarchists based at universities around the country encouraging them to travel to London and join him on the march.
A Sunday Telegraph investigation traced him after he used his real name to register the anarchist Autonomous Group with the student union at Queen Mary College, University of London, in Mile End, east London, where he was recently awarded a first for his dissertation on The Angry Brigade, a militant group responsible for a series of bomb attacks in Britain in the 1970s.
Mr Sielman-Parry is president of the group and is also one of the administrators of the Autonomous Students Network (ASN), which links anarchists based at universities across the country.
The ASN uses a page on the social networking site Facebook to organise events and links it to a blog which, following last week's demonstration, posted advice for those "scapegoated" for the violence.
The advice says: "You have the right to silence. This means you have the right not to incriminate yourself. So we recommend you do NOT. SAY NOTHING TO NO-ONE ONLINE OR OFFLINE, ON THE PHONE OR IN PERSON about the events."
It adds: "The police will likely be using clothing and shoes to try and identify people from footage, as faces often dont show up very well on CCTV, and will be trying to make further arrests based on this evidence, so be careful anybody who was wearing identifiable clothing."
Mr Sielman-Parry, who lives with his mother Pauline Sielman in Leyton, East London, started the Autonomous Group two years ago after asking fellow radicals for help on another website,
In his profile on the site he outlines his politics as: "Building and constructing the libertarian society to replace/overthrow the authoritarian one."
In March 2009 he wrote: "Me and a few friends are setting up a libertarian socialist society at Queen Mary College, and i was wondering if the various anarchist/libertarian left societies at universities up and down the country had already joined into some kind of union against the corrupt and compromised NUS."
He also asked about getting hold of anarchist flags. "guys i want a red and black flag!" he said.
"i have absolutely no diy skills. So where in london can i get one? Given time though actually i wouldnt mind learning some flag making skills so any pointers where i could learn would be good too cheers."
Days later, he added: "thanks for the help guys, im getting closer to my dream of my own flag!"
Mr Sielman-Parry refused to comment yesterday, saying only: "I'm not going to say anything because I don't want my words twisted or taken out of context."
Asked if he used the pseudonyms Karl Sacco-Vanzetti and Workers Dreadnought he smiled and refused to comment.
Mr Parry said: "I'm proud of my son's involvement in setting up the Autonomous Students Network. He is an intelligent young man who thinks about social problems deeply. We share common interests but he has developed these himself and I'm fully supportive of him."
Cambridge student Luke Hawksbee, a fellow administrator of the ASN, defended the occupation of Millbank Tower, claiming it was "a spontaneous outburst of frustration" at planned increases in tuition fees and swingeing public spending cuts.
Although Mr Hawksbee, 21, a philosophy undergraduate at King's College Cambridge, said the day's violence was "regrettable", he defended the right of the protesters to take direct action.
"Everyone I talk to thinks the throwing of the fire extinguisher was stupid. In fact the students below were chanting 'stop throwing things'. But I understand people's anger at what the Coalition are doing," he said.
He denied anarchist groups had pre-planned the invasion of the Conservative Party headquarters, which resulted in tens of thousands of pounds worth of damage.
"There was no specific plan about occupying places like that. It was only a general call for action in the broadest sense. What happened in the end was that thousands of students decided themselves to enter the building as they marched past it after leaving Parliament Square."
Mr Hawksbee, from Harlow, Essex, is described by fellow students as a "very good public speaker and experienced activist". However his attempt earlier this year to win election as Cambridge University Student Union (CUSU) co-ordinator failed, even though he was unopposed, when a majority of students who voted opted to reopen nominations in the race.
An activist who before the Millbank demonstration had urged protesters to "fight", said Wednesday's protest was a symbolic moment.
Jimmi O'Brien, a history student at De Montford University, in Leicester, said: "This isn't just about the Coalition cuts. It's about the whole capitalist system. We're fed up with it all. This issue has been rumbling on for 20 years and nothing's been done about it."
Following the protest Mr O'Brien changed his Facebook profile to display a photograph from the protest of a hooded activist kicking in a window at Millbank Tower.
He had earlier responded to a message posted on an anarchist website encouraging students to join the protest.
He wrote: "De Montfort University Autonomous will be there showing the nice polite students how to protest! F*** '68, lets [sic] fight now.!!!"
But he denied the violence had been masterminded in advance.
"This is happening spontaneously," he said.
Another ASN administrator is an officer at the NUS, which has publicly condemned the violence.
Alan Bailey, a homosexual activist and student at the University of Salford, is one of two elected NUS Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered officials for the current academic year.
* Additional reporting by Michael Howie and Alastair Jamieson

Oxford graduate trying to bring chaos to Britain's high streets

A series of anti-capitalist protests which have disrupted High Streets across Britain is being orchestrated by an Oxford graduate using the social networking site Twitter, it can be can revealed.

Revealed: The Oxford graduate trying to bring chaos to Britain's high streets
Protesters demonstrate against Vodafone's alleged tax avoidance schemes outside a Vodafone retail shop on Oxford Street  Photo: GETTY IMAGES
He is the brilliant Oxford graduate with a burgeoning career in television, including a stint on Melvyn Bragg's The South Bank Show.
But Thom Costello can also be unmasked as the ringleader of an anti-capitalist movement that is bringing chaos to high streets across Britain.
Mr Costello, 22, has already orchestrated a protest against Vodafone, shutting down about a tenth of its stores over claims the company has evaded a £6 billion tax bill.
His organisation UK Uncut is now planning a mass day of action next month, which has such major retailers as Boots, also accused of tax avoidance, in its sights.
The success of Mr Costello's campaign has caused consternation in British boardrooms. As many as 30 of Vodafone's stores were forced to shut temporarily by activists in just three days of protests earlier this month.
Mr Costello, 22, is using the social networking sites Twitter and Facebook to mobilise activists. The night before a protest he posts UK Uncut's latest plans on the internet.
Demonstrators then gather at the intended target the next day, staging sit in protests or else blocking doorways to force shops to close.
Mr Costello began his campaign at the end of October in immediate response to the Chancellor's comprehensive spending review.
The Oxford graduate has tried to keep his identity secret – using the pseudonym Sam Baker – but The Sunday Telegraph tracked him down to his latest workplace, an independent television production company CTVC, based in central London.
Mr Costello said: "At this stage I would rather you gave me a different name. I just think it is not sensible [for my real name] to be associated with a conspiracy to commit crime.... I don't want my name associated with the next phase."
"We are in the process of planning something on a quite significantly bigger scale than what we have done so far. We are calling for a big day of action for the 4th December. It is going to be a campaign against tax avoidance companies.
"This shows the power of Twitter and also the anger out there at the cuts."
He added: "The beauty of shutting down High Street stores is it is very easy. You don't have to break windows, you don't have to storm it. You just sit down in the doorway and you have effectively closed it very, very peacefully and non-violently."
Mr Costello uses his private Twitter account to relay details of his activism. Mr Costello declares on his Twitter account: "I help make documentaries. I am also trying to help bring down the government."
He joined in with last week's student demonstration that caused hundreds of thousands of pounds of damage to the Conservative party headquarters in Millbank – but insisted he had not taken part in any criminal activity.
But Mr Costello did criticise Aaron Porter, the president of the National Union of Students, on Twitter for condemning the violence. Mr Costello wrote: "Shut up Aaron Porter you dickhead. Smashing a window is not violence."
Later he posted: "All the students who left London energised and fired up and inspired yesterday, remember: there are targets everywhere."
Mr Costello, whose father runs a theatre in south London and who has accompanied his son on one Vodafone protest, founded UK Uncut late last month with a group of activists after a meeting in a London pub.
The campaign has since gone 'viral', attracting support across the country.
UK Uncut picked on Vodafone after reading reports – which the mobile phone company denies – that it had avoided paying a £6 billion tax bill.
The campaign began when Mr Costello posted his plans on the internet, writing on October 29: "Tomorrow there will be a mass shut down of Vodafone stores all over the country.
"These cuts are not fair, we're not all in this together, and there is an alternative. Collect Vodafone's unpaid £6 billion. This crisis was caused by the private sector but it is the public sector who are being made to pay. Make Vodafone pay."
Exhorting activists to meet in central London for a protest which was filmed and subsequently posted on the website YouTube.
In it, the demonstrators can be seen following Mr Costello and another protester holding an orange umbrella to Vodafone's flagship store in Oxford Street.
About 30 activists staged a demonstration which forced the company to shut the shop, fearing its staff might be in danger. Subsequently Mr Costello staged a protest at the showroom of Osborne & Little, a fabric company run by the Chancellor's father. The protest was also posted on YouTube.
Mr Costello, who is an aspiring playwright, won a BBC World Service writing competition aged 18 before going on to Oxford where he gained a first in English literature and language at St Catherine's College.
After leaving Oxford, he briefly worked as a teacher at his old school Langley Park Boys School in Lewisham while also charging £25 an hour for private tuition.
While at the school, he took part in direct action protests organised by climate change activists, which has in the past targeted Heathrow Airport as well as coal-fired power stations.
During a demonstration at Ratcliffe Power Station in Nottinghamshire last October – to which he also took his father along – he posted on his Twitter account: "Got kicked in the face, batoned in the hand and came face to face with a police dog in a pitch black forest. They did NOT want us to get in.
"One of the year 7s in my lesson: "Mr Costello, I saw you on BBC news last night in a riot." Me: "errrrr ..."
After finishing teaching at the school to take up his job with The South Bank Show he wrote: "Just finished my last day of teaching, or as I like to call it: promoting homosexuality to children."
A Vodafone spokesman said: "We don't know a lot about UK Uncut but the group has caused a nationwide action against Vodafone.
"A reasonable number of stores were closed by these protests – between 20 and 25 out of 300. The protests were largely peaceful but our first duty is to protect our employees.
"The issue from our point of view is the protest is not based on facts."
Vodafone claims to have settled a long-running dispute with the HM Revenue & Customs by paying a £1.2 billion tax bill in the summer. The company denied being let off a £6 billion bill.
Jonathan Levi, the head of arts and popular culture at ITV Studios where Mr Costello worked on The South Bank Show, remembered the Oxford graduate as being highly intelligent but also unusual.
"He used to bring in mouldy old sandwiches he found in bins and try to get the rest of the staff to eat them," recalled Mr Levi, "He is pretty strident."

Monday, 8 November 2010

Top charities give £200,000 to group which supported al-Qaeda cleric

The radical cleric accused of inspiring the cargo bomb plot has been backed by a prominent British campaign group which has financial support from leading charities.

Yemeni authorities have charged Anwar al-Awlaki, described as spiritual mentor to Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, with incitement to violence against foreigners.
Anwar Al-Awlaki; America and the war on Yemen - talking about Omar Farooq
Cageprisoners, a self-styled human rights organisation, has a long association with Anwar al-Awlaki, who was last week accused of being one of the figures behind the terrorist plot to blow up cargo planes which saw a powerful device defused at East Midlands Airport.
The Islamic preacher, based in Yemen, was invited to address two Cageprisoners' fundraising dinners via video link, one last year and one in 2008.
The group has now told its backers that it no longer supports the cleric and that it "disagreed" with him over "the killing of civilians".
But an examination of the Cageprisoners website last week suggested that its support for the cleric was as strong as ever.
Cageprisoners was set up to lobby on behalf of terror suspects held at Guantanamo Bay and those monitored under control orders in the UK.
The Sunday Telegraph can reveal that it is being funded by the Joseph Rowntree Trust, a Quaker-run fund set up by the chocolate-maker and philanthropist a century ago, and The Roddick Foundation, a charity set up by the family of Anita Roddick, the Body Shop founder, after her death three years ago.
The Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust is giving Cageprisoners £170,000 in donations over three years - with the latest payment due this month - and The Roddick Foundation another £25,000.
In its website, recently re-branded with some of the charities' cash, Cageprisoners carries more than 20 articles about al-Awlaki, describing him as an 'inspiration' and casting doubt on the evidence he is involved in terrorism.
Awlaki is believed by Western intelligence services to be an ideological figurehead of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the group blamed for the cargo bombs. Last year he praised the Muslim US soldier who killed 13 colleagues at Fort Hood, Texas.
Yet despite the heads of both MI5 and MI6 saying Awlaki uses the internet to foment terrorism, the Cageprisoners website also contains video messages from the American-born radical.
Cageprisoners - a not for profit company - is headed by Moazzam Begg, a former Guantanamo Bay prisoner, and also employs Feroz Ali Abbasi, another detainee freed from the controversial US base.
As recently as last month its website highlighted claims by Yemeni politicians that they had "never been given evidence against [Awlaki]".
Earlier in the year one leading activist wrote: "Anwar al-Awlaki's contribution to Cageprisoners has always been positive, particularly when invited to our events he has only spoken from his experiences as a former prisoner."
Mr Begg, born in Birmingham, was detained by the Americans for nearly three years after being arrested in Pakistan and accused of being an al-Qaeda terrorist.
He has interviewed al-Awlaki, and earlier this year he wrote that it "was evident that he commanded a large following and great respect amongst many Muslims".
But Mr Begg added that, after Awlaki's alleged torture while held in Yemen in 2006, "I am told, Anwar's position on issues pertaining to the US foreign policy had started to become more hostile...
"I wonder if it was terribly surprising if ... after suffering abuse I know only too well US agents to be capable of, [he] now allegedly lauds the Fort Hood shootings as deeds of heroism."
Other articles on the Cageprisoners website raise further questions.
One, on the death of Faraj Hassan, a former control order detainee, said he had died with a smile on his face "similar to the smiles we are used to seeing in videos of those martyred in the way of Allah while fighting in foreign war zones".
Hassan, a Libyan who was accused of an attempted church bombing in Italy, was killed in a road crash in August. The Cageprisoners article added: 'His death … may serve as the fertilizer that serves to revive the spirit of jihad in the Muslims of Britain."
Despite the group's views, it is still being provided with money by the Joseph Rowntree charity, to help with its "core costs", and by the Roddick Foundation, which is run by the late businesswoman's widower Gordon and other members of her family.
Cageprisoners has also received the backing of Amnesty International, which last year faced a public row when one of its staff was forced to quit after calling Amnesty's links to Cageprisoners "a gross error of judgement".
Cageprisoners also received a further £131,000 in donations last year from other undisclosed sources. It has used the money to pay for a rapid expansion of its work.
It now has three full-time and one part-time staff members who are paid a total of £64,000 a year.
The group has recently moved to a new office in Camden, north London, which is, it says, "important for our clients who now have a safe place to come in order to feel safe and speak about their problems".
Last night Stephen Pittman, Secretary of the Joseph Rowntree Trust, defended his charity's funding of the group. He said: "I've recently spoken to Cageprisoners and I have had a commitment that they are completely opposed to any form of the use of terrorism aimed at civilians.
"They are completely committed to the upholding of human rights standards ... [and] have distanced themselves from this man [al-Awlaki].
"Cageprisoners has now stated that it is not supportive of anything al-Awlaki is saying relating to the use of violence.
"We have got a Muslim community in Britain which feels highly alienated and the people who in our view are able to build bridges and make links to those young Muslims are people like Moazzam Begg and Cageprisoners."
The Roddick Foundation could not be contacted for comment.
Last week, Mr Begg said: "Our position is that we campaigned for him when he was a detainee and we now campaign against him being targeted for extra judicial killing - assassination - by the Americans. But we are also strongly against his calls for the targeting of civilians."
It has also become clear that Awlaki has enjoyed the backing of another prominent British Muslim leader.
As recently as last month, Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari, the former head of the Muslim Council of Britain, defended a decision to host Awlaki at the East London Mosque, of which he is chairman, as an act of "fairness and justice."
In a letter obtained by The Sunday Telegraph, Dr Bari said that claims made about Awlaki at the time had been "misleading," unsubstantiated and had been "categorically refuted" by the radical preacher.
Awlaki spoke at the mosque - Britain's largest, which presents itself as a beacon of moderation and tolerance – last year.
The event, a video address and live telephone question-and-answer session, was advertised with a poster showing New York under bombardment.
The mosque claimed at the time that "none of the speakers involved [were] banned from entering the UK or convicted of any hate crimes".
It later insisted that "there was no credible evidence at the time of the event that Awlaki might be an extremist".
In fact, Awlaki was reportedly banned from the UK for his extremist links as early as 2006. In October 2008, more than two months before the event at the East London Mosque, Awlaki was described by Charles Allen, the US under-secretary for intelligence, as the "spiritual leader to three of the September 11 hijackers", an "al-Qaeda supporter" and "an example of al-Qaeda reach into the [US] homeland".
Dr Bari's latest comments on Awlaki come in a letter last month to Paul Goodman, the former Conservative MP.
Describing the event, Dr Bari says in his letter that "back then, we were faced with claims from a newspaper that it could not substantiate; categorical refutations from the subject of their attack; and just a few days to consider an external booking of our facilities."
He says: "Instead of over-reacting and taking the easy way out [cancelling the meeting], we acted out of fairness and justice – British values that the Conservative Party has recently put back on the agenda."
Dr Bari says that he has now condemned Awlaki after "more evidence of his extremism emerged". He insists that his mosque firmly bars extremist speakers.
However, his spokesman continued to defend the Awlaki booking this week, saying that some of what has been reported about Awlaki was "not correct."
Mr Goodman said last night: "Dr Bari's conduct in this affair is extremely curious. Any reasonable person will conclude that the East London Mosque is either unwilling, or unable, to tackle extremism rigorously."
The Sunday Telegraph has learnt that British counter-terrorism chiefs believe AQAP will launch another attack against the UK within six months.
The Government has been told that the most likely avenue of attack will be the targeting of airlines from groups based abroad, but a home-grown plot has not be ruled out.
Intelligence sources have told The Sunday Telegraph that AQAP is "vying" to become the most prominent al-Qaeda-affiliated terror group following the foiled attack nine days ago.
Sources have also revealed that Britain would be prepared to send special forces to assist the Yemeni government to hunt down members of the Islamist organisation if requested to do so.
Britain already has a small detachment of military counter-terrorism specialists involved in training members of the Yemeni Army but they are under orders not to get involved in military operations against terrorist groups.
Additional reporting by Andrew Gilligan and Sean Rayment

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