CAIRO: He characterizes himself as a freedom fighter and friend to the Arabs. So, when George Galloway, outspoken British MP was detained this weekend at Cairo International Airport on what officials called matters of “national security, it came as a surprise to both he and the anti-war activists he has long supported.
Galloway arrived late Friday night to take part in a mock trial of U.S. President Geroge W. Bush, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on charges that they illegitimately entered into war with Iraq, as well as for violence in the Palestinian territories. Galloway was a no-show due to his detainment, an ironic move, he tells The Daily Star Egypt, as it only gained the faux trial more media play.
“My non-appearance at the Bush, Blair and Sharon trial gave more publicity to the trial than it otherwise would have gotten, he says. “God moves in mysterious ways. So it was [an] unpleasant experience, but it had some beneficial effects. The trial was a success and it was widely covered in the press.
The statement from the British Embassy in Cairo said simply that its diplomats did everything they could to provide consultary support for Galloway during his detainment. The often controversial former Labour Party MP returned to the United Kingdom yesterday with no hard feelings, saying he received a personal apology from President Hosni Mubarak.
“He sent the chairman of the foreign affairs committee with a personal message of apology and regret and he was very upset about what happened to me, Galloway explains. “He knows I am a freedom fighter and friend of the Arabs and he is sincerely sorry about what happened. It was a sincere apology and I accepted it.
The mock trial, sponsored by the Egypt-based Federation of Arab Lawyers, brought together human rights activists and international lawyers, including former Algerian President Ahmed Ben Bella, and ex-Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. Nelson Mandella was scheduled to appear, however ailing health hindered his ability to travel. The trial, which attorneys emphasize was not legally binding, aimed to highlight popular opposition to the war in Iraq and violence against Palestinians. Both are things for which activists believe Bush, Blair and Sharon are ultimately responsible.
“The struggle continues to bring these criminals to justice and to end the occupation of Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan as well as to strengthen the alliance of the anti-war movement in the West with the progressive currents in the East, says Galloway. “This has been my job for many decades and that job continues.
Upon his departure from Egypt, Galloway spoke out against the uprisings at the Danish embassies in Syria and Lebanon. Protesters set embassies in Damascus and Beirut ablaze this weekend in opposition against cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed published in a number of newspapers in Europe. While he firmly condemns the publication of egregious material against any group, be it on the basis of gender, race or religion, Galloway says only with calm reaction can this conflict be resolved.
“I think the publication of these caricatures was a wicked act of provocation, he explains. “I hope no citizens of these countries are harmed but I understand the anger of Muslims. The Muslims have been injured enough over the last few years and this was to throw petrol on the flames. Now, it’s literally petrol on the flames. I just hope these protests are peaceful.