Cerie Bullivant

Five life sentences, two acquittals: Peering deeper into the Crevice 7/07 case.

Cerie Bullivant

Joined: Nov 6 2006, 05:39 PM

Nov 10 2013, 04:09 AM #1

Escaping terror prevention measures is easy, says former runaway suspect
Cerie Bullivant, who absconded in 2007, says he understands why Mohammed Ahmed Mohamed may have decided to flee

Vikram Dodd
The Guardian, Friday 8 November 2013 17.54 GMT

A one-time terrorism suspect who went on the run after he was subjected to measures restricting his freedom has said it was easy to escape and that the police and the security services could not be trusted with their powers.

Cerie Bullivant was subjected to the what he called draconian measures on the basis of information gathered by MI5, Britain's domestic security service, despite not facing any criminal charge.

But eventually the allegations against him were dismissed by the high court as baseless.

Bullivant was subjected to a control order introduced by the Labour government, which the current government replaced with the less severe terrorism prevention and investigation measure (Tpim).

Some critics say Tpims are too lax, and the measures are under particular scrutiny after Mohammed Ahmed Mohamed escaped last Friday, allegedly donning a burka after attending a west London mosque.

Nine people have absconded since 2005 while under control orders or Tpims. Eight were never recaptured.

Bullivant is the only one recovered by the authorities; he handed himself in after five weeks on the run. He said: "It was very easy to escape."

He was placed under a control order in July 2006 and escaped the next year.

In 2008 the high court decided there was no "reasonable suspicion" that Bullivant intended to take part in terrorism abroad, despite MI5 claims to the contrary.

Bullivant, now 31, said his experience demonstrated that the security services should not wield such great power over individuals who have not been convicted: "This goes to show, with a host of other intelligence failures, the intelligence services are not to be trusted."

He says MI5's suspicions against him were partly stoked by an anonymous call which they never properly investigated because they did not expect they would be subjected to scrutiny.

Bullivant said he understood why Mohammed, who fled last week, may have done so despite having only a few months left before his restrictions expired: "When you are living under these oppressive conditions, when your whole life is dictated by a faceless suit from the Home Office, you don't necessarily make rational decisions."

Bullivant said his false labelling as a terrorist suspect cost him his marriage and career as a mental health nurse.

He said when he fled he initially felt "euphoric" about having regained his freedom.

But Bullivant warned that the fact so many have escaped from control orders and Tpims without being recaptured showed that they are not suitable for those who pose a danger to national security.

He added: "If we go down the path of secret courts and secret evidence then the terrorists have already won, and we've done it for them."

In 2006 Bullivant was stopped at Heathrow as he was about to fly to Syria. He had been travelling with Ibrahim Adam, the brother of fertiliser bomb plotter Anthony Garcia (who was jailed in 2007), and said he intended to study Arabic.

Bullivant disappeared at the same time as two others under control orders, neither of whom were recaptured. In the ensuing row the then home secretary, John Reid, said he was prepared to declare a "state of emergency" to suspend key parts of the human rights convention.


Code: Select all

"No one understood better than Stalin that the true object of propaganda is neither to convince nor even to persuade, but to produce a uniform pattern of public utterance in which the first trace of unorthodox thought immediately reveals itself as a jarring dissonance." Leonard Schapiro

Joined: Nov 6 2006, 05:39 PM

Nov 10 2013, 04:23 AM #2

Last Updated: Friday, 14 March 2008, 01:25 GMT

By Dominic Casciani
BBC News

A man who last year sparked a national manhunt has spoken exclusively to the BBC, saying he is not the man the security services say he is.

On a summer's day in 2006, Cerie Bullivant was laying a patio with friends.

Plain-clothed police officers approached, asked him to confirm his name and handed him documents. They had served a counter-terrorism control order.

The Home Secretary had concluded the British convert to Islam was an extremist who may head to Iraq. He could become a suicide bomber - and had to be stopped.

But today, after a collapsed marriage, self-harm incidents and legal challenges involving an MI5 witness, Cerie Bullivant is walking around a free man.

Over the course of three months, an Old Bailey jury has accepted his reasons for going on the run - and then a High Court judge quashed a fresh order to tag him and impose a curfew.

"The last two years of my life have been utterly devastated and controlled," he told the BBC in his home in Dagenham, Essex.

"It devastates and dismantles every aspect of your life and what makes you a person. Friends would not talk to me anymore. I had only been put on it because of association - and the same thing could happen to them."

The story of Cerie Bullivant begins in 2004. It was a difficult time in his life, drifting through bit jobs and struggling to care for his ill mother. A couple of old Asian schoolmates said Islam offered answers. The Harrogate-born 25-year-old was keen to learn - and he soon converted.

"For me it was the best moment of my life," he says. "I'm not the sort of person who speaks of great white lights - but that was the first time in my life I had felt a lifting. I had made the right decision."

He lost some of his old friends - but made new ones. Among those were two brothers, Lamine and Ibrahim Adam, whom Bullivant met playing football in 2005.

Lamine was associated with a group of would-be bombers, one of which was his other brother, who would later be jailed in the massive "Operation Crevice" prosecution. Lamine, a London Tube driver, had considered joining the new jihad in Afghanistan, according to court evidence.

Airport stop

In January 2006 police officers stopped Bullivant and the Adam brothers from heading to Syria.

MI5 assessed the trio were really heading for Iraq. Security service papers suggest "martyrdom operations" - suicide bombings against British or US troops.

Bullivant says he was "baffled" and insists his trip was a backpacking adventure. The Home Office placed the brothers under control orders - and months later Bullivant joined them after MI5 expressed concern over his plans to go to Bangladesh.

He handed over his passport, his computer and other belongings were taken. He was obliged to sign in daily at a police station. He complained to the Home Office this prevented him properly studying. He didn't dare tell his mother. The strain began to show and his marriage to a Muslim woman began to crack.

On the run

In May 2007 Cerie Bullivant went on the run in what he now calls his "moment of madness".

He and the Adam brothers disappeared, sparking a national manhunt, front page headlines and political pressure on the Home Office over the use of the orders.

Four weeks later Bullivant had a change of heart, left the London flat where he says they were hiding out watching DVDs, and turned himself in. The Adam brothers have not been seen again - before they disappeared police say they were trying to obtain false passports.

The nine months since then has seen a legal rollercoaster take the 25-year-old from being one of the most wanted men in Britain to the rare position of having challenged counter-terrorism laws and won.

Cleared in court

When an Old Bailey jury cleared him of breaching his order, the Home Office imposed more restrictions, including an electronic tag and a home curfew.

But last month a senior High Court judge quashed that more restrictive order, ruling that while the Home Secretary originally had reasonable grounds for suspicion - those no longer existed.

So what had happened? Was he someone who had learnt the hard way not to flirt with extremism?

"The Home Office would say that I was involved in radical Islamist groups, but I never went to any speeches or talks of any of the scholars that are now in prison," he says. "I had tapes of talks by scholars - but they were mainstream.

What about material from preachers now known to have spearheaded radicalisation?

"No Abu Hamza, no Omar Bakri, no Shaikh Faisal. I have not heard any of those talks other than what I have heard in the media."

We asked him what he thought of jihadi thinking - that Muslims have an obligation to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan

"I know that both me and Lamine were completely opposed to market place bombs and killing of innocents, wholesale slaughter, those kinds of things.

"But it is common sense that if you go and invade a country the native people are going to try to defend themselves.

"I can't speak for anyone else but the trip to Syria was just a bit of backpacking, an adventure. MI5 says our plans were vague. In a way I can accept that. It wasn't a package holiday. But I know my own barrister arrived years ago in Marseille backpacking and slept on the streets.

"This idea that we were going out there to bunk the border and fight in Iraq baffles me, it really does. I fail to see the romance in fighting."

Cerie Bullivant said he wanted his case to be public because he believes it exposes the fragility of intelligence assessments.

He argues that once he fell under suspicion because of his friendship with Lamine Adam, the system was unable to accept they had the wrong man.

However, Lord Carlile, the terrorism laws watchdog, says that controversial control order cases have in fact proved the opposite - that legal safeguards are working.

He has reviewed the decision-making in every control order and has read all the same MI5 papers seen by the Home Secretary. He says security-cleared special advocates, lawyers who argue for suspects in secret judicial hearings, are clearly proving their worth, even if the suspects themselves can't see the material.

The Home Office says it was disappointed that the control order was quashed. But in a first for a British-born controllee, it says it will not appeal the decision.

Whatever the state of Cerie Bullivant's mind now, was he ever a threat to national security, contemplating a "martyrdom operation" as a bomber?

He shakes his head and answers quietly.

"The only time I have ever been close to suicide is since they put me on these orders and I was at my lowest point," he says.

"I'm not a threat to national security. I'm British, I was born in this country. I have never been involved in anything that would harm the security of this country or the security of other countries."


Code: Select all

"No one understood better than Stalin that the true object of propaganda is neither to convince nor even to persuade, but to produce a uniform pattern of public utterance in which the first trace of unorthodox thought immediately reveals itself as a jarring dissonance." Leonard Schapiro

Joined: Nov 6 2006, 05:39 PM

Nov 10 2013, 04:26 AM #3

"Why Everybody needs HHUGS" - Cerie Bullivant

On the 26th January 2013 at the Lewisham Islamic Centre. Cerie Bullivant spoke of how it felt being placed on a control order. He also highlighted the need to support an organisation like HHUGS.


Code: Select all


Code: Select all

"No one understood better than Stalin that the true object of propaganda is neither to convince nor even to persuade, but to produce a uniform pattern of public utterance in which the first trace of unorthodox thought immediately reveals itself as a jarring dissonance." Leonard Schapiro

Joined: Nov 6 2006, 05:39 PM

Nov 10 2013, 04:39 AM #4

Interview: Cerie Bullivant
Monday, 5 December 2011 12:00 AM

Cerie Bullivant, an innocent man, discovered what living with a control order is actually like the hard way. He is now out to get them axed for good.

By Alex Stevenson Follow @alex__stevenson

The government doesn't need a conviction to place terror suspects under control orders. Campaigners say it's a fundamental usurpation of our civil liberties and the right to trial. One of the most vocal of their opponents is Cerie Bullivant. If that name sounds familiar, it might be because you've read about him before.

The first time politics.co.uk had mentioned the man now sitting opposite me was once before, in May 2007, when then home secretary John Reid had bowed to civil liberties concerns and announced a review of control orders.

The review, as the story explained, came as "Scotland Yard took the unprecedented step of releasing the identities of three missing terror suspects under a control order". One of the three was Cerie Bullivant.

"Despite there being insufficient evidence to charge the men with a criminal offence, they were issued with control orders under the Terrorism Act and supposed to report regularly to a police station," we reported at the time.

"Opponents have long criticised control orders for creating a legal limbo which fails to fully satisfy human rights or security concerns... in a written statement to the Commons Mr Reid said the three men did not pose a threat to the public and the control orders had been imposed to prevent them travelling abroad."

Bullivant, who was 24 then, certainly did not pose a threat to the public. The following February Mr Justice Collins at the high court exonerated him, saying MI5 had shown "no reasonable suspicion" when they decided he was a security risk. Anti-terror powers had been used to severely limit the liberty of an innocent man. His wife had left him, he said after his release, and his life had been destroyed.

Looking back now, it's clear his views of the world - and Britain - had been fundamentally changed by the experience. "Call me naive, but I grew up believing Britain was the good guy," he tells me.

"We brought democracy to the world... it's been a rude awakening to see that actually that version of history we grew up with has a few more pages to it than I originally thought."

Bullivant's own troubled history began in 2006 as he attempted to board a flight to Syria. He was questioned for hours. He missed his flight and had his DNA and fingerprints taken, before being allowed to go. A week later he returned to retrieve his passport, but was warned not to attempt to travel anywhere politically questionable.

He thought no-one could object to Bangladesh, where he planned to visit an orphanage. A week before he was due to travel MI5 phoned up his friend and told him not to travel. Two days later, he was put on a control order.

Bullivant talks about this period of his life in calm, measured tones, but it's clear that at the time he was a broken man.

"You know you have so many conditions you have to fulfil, and you know if you don't you're liable for up to five years in prison," he explains.

"Your brain is constantly going over this. You don't know why it's been done to you, so you're constantly trying to second-guess why it's happened to you in the first place. You end up in this half-paranoid, depressed, catatonic state, constantly panicking and worrying. The conditions affect everybody you live with."

When the house was searched two or three times a week, it affected all those living there. The rule prohibiting mobile phones applied to all those there - visitors or residents. Internet and even computers were not allowed, so "children can't do their coursework".

"It put a huge amount of stress on my mum - she was being punished even though she had never done anything wrong," he adds.

For 18 months he tried to follow the obligations he was placed under, but the pressure told. "I was in such an isolated, alone place that I literally couldn't stay any more and live under those conditions," he says. During those 18 months Bullivant committed 47 breaches of his control order. In the end, he ran away.

"The police are appealing for help to find Lamine Adams, 26, Ibrahim, 20, and Cerie Bullivant, 24, who have now been missing for more than 24 hours," we reported at the time. All three were subsequently found to be innocent.

The appeal was unsuccessful, as Bullivant eluded capture for five weeks before eventually giving himself up.

"We went into hiding... in a bid to - well, I don't know what it was, really," he says. "You can't really give something a name when it's done in a moment of desperation. It wasn't really thinking. It was an awful situation I was in, and then suddenly this door's opened. You see a false dawn for a second that maybe you can have your life back, but then you realise in running away you're just in a control order of your own making. I was still just stuck in one house."

The next six months were spent in Belmarsh prison, whose three inmates under control orders at the time suffered various degrees of mental distress. Eventually a jury acquitted him. Breaching the control order, Mr Justice Collins found, was judged to have been a reasonable course of action, as the control order itself was unreasonable.

Bullivant hangs on to this vindication like it is a tangible medal. Yet he will never be entirely free. Only last week BBC London showed stock footage of him as a 'terror suspect', he told me; could they not have used a different clip? He now works as a film-maker, but his life has taken a very different direction since his life was turned upside down in 2006.

"After I'd managed to clear my name, I sat down with my friends and family and we had a talk about how I should go about rebuilding my life." All agreed he had a "moral obligation" to challenge the control orders regime. "Fundamentally, they're wrong - they're very un-British," he says. "They take away rights that were guaranteed to us as early as the Magna Carta. If we live in a society where this carries on and isn't spoken out against, the next legislation will be worse and worse and worse."

The problem is this is exactly the current situation, he says. The coalition government pledged to replace control orders with something less draconian. It came up with terrorist prevention and investigation measures (TPIMS) - a huge disappointment to civil liberties campaigners, who described as nothing more than a watered-down version of control orders.

The tag of 'control orders lite' soon stuck, but Bullivant objects to even that description. He argues that in some areas they have gone even further than the control orders they are set to replace.

"There are powers within Tpims that were never available during control orders," he says. UN financial sanctions rules have been incorporated which are not part of control orders. Police officers are now able to define the actions and movements of terror suspects under TPIMS - told to go home, or stay at home, without judicial oversight. All this happens without the suspect being charged. "In many ways, the conditions of TPIMS are much, much worse and much more restrictive. They take away a lot of the judicial oversight you had with control orders."

Bullivant fears enhanced Tpims will be introduced as an additional security measure for the Olympic Games, but will not be removed afterwards. "We're shouting to the rest of the world that we're hypocrites," he says.

He does not hold back when he is asked to give his views on the current government's approach. Tpims "punish the innocent and fail to protect us from the guilty", he says. Twenty-nine per cent of those under control orders have absconded and never been caught, he claims. This "massive failure rate" suggests they are not keeping the public safe.

Then there is the flip side: "We're creating a victim community, making chances of so-called radicalisation a lot higher." He is "terrified" by the idea that radical east London clerics have used him as an example - something he is vehemently against.

His frustration with the coalition government, especially the Liberal Democrats, is palpable. But the sense of disappointment against all of the main parties is clear.

"To be treated like that by the country I was born and grew up in is awful," he says. "It's something you would expect in a country like North Korea or Burma or China - not in Great Britain. It shakes the foundations of what you've thought about and believed."

His work has won him acclaim. Earlier this month he won the civil liberties group Liberty's award for human rights young person of the year. It described his personal campaign against control orders and Tpims as "inspirational and courageous".

"The fact is, most of the people on control orders were foreign nationals, people who couldn't easily make the arguments or get their voice heard in the media," he says.

"I was someone who could discuss, debate and make the point - however ineloquently," he jokes. Some of those people, of course, are would-be terrorists. But without any trial there is no way of knowing the innocent victim from the extremist. That's the problem at the heart of this debate.

Bullivant says he felt a "moral obligation" to make the case for those under the control order regime. His motivation was clear: "To do whatever I could for those who are still having their lives ruined." Nearly four years after being exonerated, his efforts are showing no sign of letting up.


Code: Select all

"No one understood better than Stalin that the true object of propaganda is neither to convince nor even to persuade, but to produce a uniform pattern of public utterance in which the first trace of unorthodox thought immediately reveals itself as a jarring dissonance." Leonard Schapiro

Joined: Nov 6 2006, 05:39 PM

Nov 10 2013, 04:46 AM #5

Redbridge terror suspect Cerie Bullivant speaks of being wrongly accused and why he went on the run

by Amanda Nunn Friday, May 25, 2012
8:00 AM

Five years ago suspected terrorist Cerie Bullivant was one of the most wanted men in the country after going on the run, sparking a national manhunt.

After being placed on a control order by the Home Secretary under the anti-terrorism laws, he had failed to report to a police station – causing fears of a terrorist attack.

At the peak of the search almost 50 journalists set up camp outside his mum’s house and there was mounting political pressure on the Home Office over using the orders.

Today Cerie, 29, is a free man after being found innocent at the High Court and is now getting ready for the filming of The Secret Evidence, a film based on his experience.

On board are Golden Globe-winning producer J Todd Harris, international award-winning director Nick Racz and actress Emma Thompson, from Love Actually and Harry Potter.


Cerie, of Fremantle Road, Barkingside, said: “The whole experience took three years away from me and put me into a position I never wanted to be in. But it’s opened my eyes to the injustice in this country. We’re going down a very worrying path and undermining our British values.”

Cerie had a troubled childhood, spending a period in foster care. He attended Goodmayes Primary School, Airthrie Road, and Wells Primary School, Barclay Oval, Woodford Green, Mayfield School, Pedley Road, Goodmayes and Warren Comprehensive, Whalebone Lane North, Chadwell Health.

After dropping out of the University of East London at 19, he spent a couple of years working in pubs and clubs – including the former White Hart pub, Green Lane, Goodmayes.

At 21 he converted to Islam after being inspired by a chance meeting with an old school friend.

Cerie said: “I have always been interested in religion and Islam was the first faith which didn’t ask me to believe in it blindly.

“There is lots of science in the Koran which could not have been known when it was written in a desert 1,400 years ago.”

He then decided to go backpacking to Syria to learn more about Islam and to study Arabic.

“When I got to Heathrow I was questioned for nine hours by the anti-terrorist branch and later by MI5.

“They asked me about what music I listened to, where I went to school and what I thought of 9/11 and 7/7 – to which I pointed out that they are obviously horrific things.”

The officers apologised, saying it was just a routine check, but told him not to visit anywhere which could be considered suspicious. Instead of the Middle East, Cerie decided to go to Bangladesh where a friend was running an orphanage.

“About a week before I was about to leave I was helping my friend build a patio in Barkingside when five plain clothes policemen turned up and asked if I was Mr Bullivant,” said Cerie.

“It was like in a film. They said they were giving me a control order and that I had to go with them to the police station to go through the terms.”

Initially the terms of the order included signing in at a police station each day, not being allowed to move house and being forbidden from visiting ports, airports or international train stations.

Over the two years the order was in place this expanded to include a curfew, wearing a tag, not being able to leave the house without calling the police, a ban from speaking to certain people and exclusion from education and employment.

Cerie said: “I did my best to abide by it for nine months, but there were so many conditions that it was impossible.

“I don’t know a single person that has completely complied with it. If the bus is late and I don’t get to the station on time it’s considered a breach and I can be put in prison for five years.”

Another condition is that the police can search your house unannounced.

“The police came round twice a week,” he said. “It’s like being continually burgled. I’d wake up in the night worrying that the police were there.”

Cerie decided not to tell his mum about the control order as she was unwell but said the mounting pressure was becoming too difficult for him to handle.

He said: “The whole process just dehumanises you until you have an empty shell of a life. It just hangs over you. I didn’t want to go out and had trouble doing even basic things.”

After talking to his friends Lamine and Ibrahim Adam, who were also under control orders and whose brother Anthony Garcia was jailed for his involvement in the fertiliser bomb plot, Cerie decided to run away.

“Everything which was happening was done on the back of secret evidence and there was a part of me that thought ‘they’re never going to let you have a life’,” said Cerie. “My friends said they were going to abscond and I decided to go with them.”

This sparked a national manhunt in 2007 for the three men and although Cerie handed himself in after five weeks, the Adam brothers were never found.

Cerie said: “After a while I realised I was just as stuck while on the run as when on a control order and the only thing I could do was to fight it in the courts, so I handed myself in.”

For the next nine months Cerie fought his case through the courts. An Old Bailey jury accepted his reasons for going into hiding and a High Court judge quashed a second control order, meaning he was now free.

After seeing a documentary about Cerie, Nick Racz contacted him with a view to making a documentary about control orders but Cerie pitched the idea of a feature film.

“I wrote the script with my friend Arthur. It was incredibly hard and took us about eight months.”


Code: Select all

"No one understood better than Stalin that the true object of propaganda is neither to convince nor even to persuade, but to produce a uniform pattern of public utterance in which the first trace of unorthodox thought immediately reveals itself as a jarring dissonance." Leonard Schapiro

Joined: Nov 6 2006, 05:39 PM

Nov 10 2013, 06:21 AM #6

Like Mohammed Ahmed Mohamed, I went on the run as a 'terrorist'
Our security services often get it wrong. I was innocent, but bore the brunt of secret hearings. Mohamed should keep on running

Cerie Bullivant
theguardian.com, Friday 8 November 2013 16.07 GMT

This week politicians and the media have raged about "terror suspect" Mohammed Ahmed Mohamed, who absconded, dressed in a burqa, while being monitored by electronic tag. I know how he feels.

I spent two years living under a control order – and the accusation that I was a terrorist. A control order is largely the same thing as a Tpim (terrorism prevention and investigation measure) – with which Mohamed had been issued – just more draconian.

Like Mohamed, I found the pressures of being labelled a "terrorist" life-sapping. And I also absconded.

Mohamed went "on the run" without having been charged with a crime and without being shown the evidence of his alleged wrongdoing. Call me old-fashioned, but I still believe in the basic concept of a trial. I'm not alone. Our justice system has world respect because it was built on the old principle that someone is "innocent until proven guilty". But with legislation such as Tpims and Schedule 7 – under which David Miranda was detained – this no longer seems to be the case.

I was cleared of my "crime" – but not before I'd lost two years of my life in a netherworld of prisons, police, tags and harassment. The cumulative effects of the conditions destroy all normality: I was forced to stop caring for my sick mother and I had to quit a degree I loved doing. In short, every aspect of my life was dismantled and ruined.

When my case eventually came to court, the judge, Justice Collins, was astonished by the flimsy evidence of my so-called wrongdoing put before him. He said three times that he could see no grounds to suspect me of involvement in terrorism. He added that, if he had seen the evidence before, he'd have thrown the order out.

I was grateful to him for being candid, but by that point I'd lost my previous life.

Over the years it has become clear that the reliability of information from our security services is not to be trusted. They assured us there were WMDs in Iraq, and there were not. They can get it equally wrong in a terrorism case.

That is why we need fair, open trials. Four of the men living under Tpims have been found not guilty in a court of law. And yet an anonymous group of men and women in suits have taken it upon themselves to override this verdict. This is an ugly precedent to set, reminiscent of regimes that are universally condemned.

After 18 months on my control order, I was ready to snap because of the pressures placed on me by these draconian measures. For my sanity, I felt my only option was also to go "on the run". There was a manhunt, with 400 officers, so I'm told. They didn't find me, or the two other men I left with. In fact they've never caught anyone who's breached their conditions.

I returned of my own accord after five weeks. I was innocent. I didn't want to be labeled a "fugitive" – running from a crime I didn't commit. I handed myself over to police and spent the next six months in Belmarsh prison.

So as someone who's felt the injustice of being called a terrorist – without evidence – as someone who's been on the wrong side of secret hearings, and who also saw the futility of a system built on secrets, I say to Mohamed: run as far as you can, run far away from these rainy shores, and I hope you will find the justice that is missing here.

Sometimes, when faced with injustice, the only option is disobedience, so God speed and good journeys.


Code: Select all

Foreshadowing a death in Somalia, or at least on the African continent, in a drone attack?
"No one understood better than Stalin that the true object of propaganda is neither to convince nor even to persuade, but to produce a uniform pattern of public utterance in which the first trace of unorthodox thought immediately reveals itself as a jarring dissonance." Leonard Schapiro

Joined: Nov 6 2006, 05:39 PM

Nov 11 2013, 11:40 AM #7

A control order ruined my life – and my respect for Britain
Nigel Morris meets Cerie Bullivant, who spent two years under house arrest

Friday 07 January 2011

An innocent man who spent two years on a control order designed for terrorist suspects told last night how the restrictions had wrecked his life.

Cerie Bullivant issued an emotional plea to David Cameron and Nick Clegg to scrap the regime, which has been denounced by civil liberties groups as an affront to natural justice.

Mr Bullivant, a Muslim convert, was required to wear an electronic tag, observe a curfew, report daily to police and to expect his home to be raided at any time.

The regime forced him to drop out of college, made it impossible for him to find a job, caused the collapse of his marriage and led to him being shunned by friends and family.

He said he still faces abuse and suspicion to this day – despite having his control order quashed by the High Court almost three years ago.

He told the Independent: “I grew up – maybe naively - thinking the Brits were the good guys, thinking we went around saving countries going through hardship and bringing democracy to the world.

“That belief has been severely shaken by living through something you would only expect in a totalitarian dictatorship. Control orders shouldn’t be in a country like Britain – they are trademarks for countries like China or Burma, oppressive dictatorships, not what we call the home of democracy.”

Mr Bullivant first fell foul of the authorities when he was stopped from boarding a flight to Syria where he planned to learn Arabic and work in an orphanage.

In July 2006, a week after he was also forced to scrap plans to visit Bangladesh, he was arrested and put on a control order on the grounds he was on his way to fight in Iraq. The sanction – based on secret evidence he has never seen – appeared to have been imposed because of his close friendship with two men whose brother had been convicted of terrorism.

Mr Bullivant, aged 28, of Dagenham, east London, insisted he knew nothing of the connection – and had simply been found “guilty by association”.

His existence changed irrevocably from the moment of the order. He said: “It became impossible to live an ordinary life.”

The requirement to sign in with police daily made it impossible to pursue his nursing degree at the University of East London.

“They had given me permission to do the course, only to make it impossible. With the conditions, there was no way I could carry on – they were making me late every day.

“They wouldn’t change my signing-on times. You do six weeks of university study and then six weeks out as a student nurse in hospitals – trying to do shift work without them changing my signing-in times meant it was never going to happen.”

Mr Bullivant’s recent marriage to a young woman whose parents had fled persecution in Iraq also faltered under the strain of early-morning police raids on the family home.

“It brought back memories of what happened before and fresh pain because this was a country they had come to for refuge... Ultimately, the pressures on them were more than I could put them through and more than they were willing to go through.”

He added: “As it got out in the community you are on a control order, you become like an untouchable. No-one wants to go near you. It’s not they think you’re guilty, but everyone knows this can pretty much happen without evidence and much basis.

“If it happened to me because of association, it could happen to them for the same reason, so they feel scared to spend a lot of time with you. I felt completely ostracised and isolated from my community.”

Under the strain – his doctors diagnosed a severe depressive episode – he absconded from his control order.

“I was in a position where felt everything I felt I touched was withering and dying, not in an abstract way, but in a literal way.

“I absolutely felt hopeless with everything to do with my life, there was no part of my life I could look at and feel there was any hope for.

“What’s worse, the control order was indefinite, and I wasn’t given any evidence, so I could see no way that I could beat it and how it would ever end.”

He voluntarily gave himself up just over five weeks later and faced trial for breaching his order. But he was cleared by a jury because of his medical condition and Mr Justice Collins said MI5 had demonstrated “no reasonable suspicion” he was a security risk.

Mr Bullivant said he still found it impossible to work in his chosen profession as a teacher of English as a foreign language because he could not pass checks by the Criminal Records Bureau. He had only finally been able to open a bank account – enabling him to claim benefits – in August.

“Two weeks ago I was walking down my road and someone recognised me and went: ‘Oi, it’s the bomber!’. That still follows me about – I have come to terms with the fact that I’m never going to change the way people think about me.”

In a message to ministers, he said: “You can’t win a war on terror by terrorising a community. Control orders are so counterproductive within the Muslim community. It’s like internment with the Irish. You are throwing fuel on the flames of anyone who is going to be radicalised.

“How can we stand up and claim to be a beacon of truth and justice when we are locking people up without evidence and putting them under house arrest?

“People who want to radicalise people will pick on this. All this for a system that every single person that has absconded has not been caught. How much protection is this offering us?”


Code: Select all

"No one understood better than Stalin that the true object of propaganda is neither to convince nor even to persuade, but to produce a uniform pattern of public utterance in which the first trace of unorthodox thought immediately reveals itself as a jarring dissonance." Leonard Schapiro