Human rights organisation CAGE Africa has criticised South African authorities for the manner in which two suspects were arrested, saying it” undermines their due process rights”. Brandon-Lee and Tony-Lee Thuslie were arrested in Newclare, Johannesburg at the weekend in a raid conducted by the Hawks, following a year-long intelligence operation. Two other suspects, Fatima and Ebrahim Patel were arrested in Azaadville, however it’s still not clear whether the two cases are linked.
According to the provisional charge sheet, between October 2015 and July this year the twins planned to “cause explosions at a Mission of the United States of America and Jewish institutions in South Africa”. The 23 year old brothers, who now go by the names Sallahuddin and Yakeen after they embraced Islam in 2014, have been charged with three counts of contravening the Protection of Constitutional Democracy against Terrorist and Related Activities Act.
Amid concerns from some individuals in the Muslim community that this is a false-flag operation, CAGE Africa said it hopes this is not a manifestation of anti-Muslim sentiment within the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation.
“In terrorism cases there is much speculation and hysteria so it is beholden on police to ensure that anti-terrorism laws are not applied to marginalise Muslims as has been the case in other countries,” said CAGE Africa spokesperson Karen Jayes.
“Rather, violent crime should be dealt with by legislation that deals with violence. If allegations of any actual acts of terrorism do emerge, they should be treated as acts of criminality, thereby refusing to fuel the mythology of such acts being anything other than violent crime.”
Following interviews with the family, the organisation reports that between 20 and 30 armed police officers broke in to their mother Wasiela Thulsie’s one-bedroomed house, where her Sallahuddin resides with her. Jayes said police did not produce a search warrant immediately on entry as is required. They then barged into the bedroom, where the two sleep, and made them lie on the floor at gunpoint.
“A few minutes later they took Wasiela to the lounge which had already been searched. They put her on the couch surrounded by fully armed police officers and insisted she sign a document, which she did even though she was too stressed at the time to read it. Sallahuddin then joined her and signed the document as well,” Jayes explained.
“They subsequently presented the search warrant, but did not present the affidavit corresponding to the search warrant, which was highly irregular. They then took some belongings. At one point Wasiela had to go the toilet, and she was accompanied by a police woman.”
According to statements she made to CAGE Africa, a police officer also mocked her Qu’ran, which Jayes describes as a “disgracefully excessive response lacking in professionalism but also stoking tensions”.
The police raid of Yakeen Thulsie’s house, where he resides with his wife, Adila, also featured the breaking down of doors although there was no imminent threat posed by the family. Jayes said there was no warrant presented for this search, and they were in the bedroom at the time police barged in. Adila did not have time to cover herself with her hijab. At the police station, one of the brothers was not allowed to take ablution to pray.
“The behaviour of the Hawks was unfortunate as it demonstrates a violation of Muslim property and belief. Such an approach will only isolate Muslims and sow the seeds of division,” said Jayes.
“We ask for a measured and responsible reporting of the facts in order to allow the judicial process to be fairly applied. Sallahuddin was not missing from work for two weeks. Rather, he had taken legitimate leave for illness for three days, and the remaining ten days he was in ‘itikaaf, the traditional spiritual retreat in the last ten days of Ramadaan, where men reside at the mosque.”
“There were at one point 20-30 armed police in Wasiela Thulsie’s house. The manner in which they broke into her property and held her at gunpoint harkens back to the darkest days of apartheid, where victims were presumed guilty, and their family members and kin criminalised and severely victimised.”
The advocacy group says the family is in shock. Wasiela’s sister has refuted that Sallahuddin was harbouring explosives, saying it is impossible.
“She reiterates that he has never held a gun in his life. He is also the breadwinner for the family, and supports his mother – which makes his continued detention a source of severe stress.”
“CAGE Africa supports the family and calls for calm, justice and the rule of law to prevail, not least of all for the assumption of innocent until proven guilty to apply.”