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Uighur denied passport over speed conviction

Salahidin Abdulahad

A man brought to Bermuda from a US jail in Cuba has had his bid for British citizenship blocked – by an almost four-year-old speeding ticket.

Salahidin Abdulahad applied for British Overseas Territory citizenship in 2018 alongside three other Uighur men, who were brought to the island in 2009.

But he was told he did not meet the “good character criteria” because of a single speeding ticket.

He said: “I have spoken to people about it. They said it doesn’t make sense. A speeding ticket doesn’t make me a criminal.”

Mr Abdulahad added that health problems had made his need for a passport even more urgent, but the decision meant he was only able to reapply this year – and he still awaited a response.

He said: “I gave my papers to my lawyer and he tried to speak to the Government to try to get me a passport, to try to bring my family together, but that’s not happened yet. I’m still waiting now.

“I’m worried about my wife. She lives alone in Canada with our three children and she is pregnant. I want to get to my wife and children.”

Mr Abdulahad was among four Muslim men, originally from Chinese Turkestan, who were brought in secret to Bermuda from a special prison set up in a military base in US-controlled Guantánamo Bay, Cuba in 2009.

They were detained by US forces in Afghanistan after they fled their homeland because of persecution by the Chinese authorities.

They were taken to the US prison camp at Guantánamo Bay on suspicion of terrorist activity – which they always denied.

They were finally released by the US after seven years behind bars, long after it was ruled that they were not enemy combatants.

The men were brought to Bermuda through a secret agreement with the US Government struck by former premier Ewart Brown and Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch, then the national security minister.

The home affairs ministry announced in 2018 that the former detainees at Guantánamo Bay had been made British Overseas Territory citizens – but Mr Abdulahad said his application had been rejected.

The Chief Immigration Officer said in a letter at the time that the Deputy Governor’s Office had consulted the UK Home Office over his application.

Their inquires revealed Mr Abdulahad was found guilty of speeding in February 2017.

The letter said: “In line with current Home Office guidance, the Deputy Governor has refused the application on the grounds that Mr Abdulahad does not meet the good character criteria.”

The letter added that Mr Abdulahad could apply again from February 27 this year if he had no further convictions.

UK guidance notes on the issue of “good character” said that ”fixed penalty notices such as speeding tickets or parking tickets“ would not usually be taken into account unless there were multiple offences or a criminal proceedings because of a failure to pay.

But Mr Abdulahad’s offence was dealt with in court, which resulted in a conviction.

He said he had been stopped by police for speeding at 59km/h in November 2016.

He pleaded guilty to the offence in Magistrates’ Court and paid a $200 fine on the spot.

He said: “I have spoken to people about it. They said it doesn’t make sense. A speeding ticket doesn’t make me a criminal.”

Mr Abdulahad added he was not able to reapply for BOTC status until June because of the global pandemic and hoped to get a response soon.

He said he has suffered several seizures in recent years doctors had warned it was dangerous for him to live alone.

Mr Abdulahad added: “I have gone to my lawyer in Bermuda and I spoke to lawyers in Toronto, who they said to get my Bermuda passport first and then I could try to get a visa to go to Canada, but I’m still waiting.

“I hope this time I get my passport, but I haven’t gotten it yet.”

A Government House spokeswoman said yesterday she could not comment on individual cases.

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Published October 16, 2020 at 8:00 am (Updated October 15, 2020 at 8:12 pm)

Uighur denied passport over speed conviction

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