Manchester family wins home seizure case

A UK judge has ruled in favour of Farooqi family saying confiscation of their home would have “draconian” consequences.

The UK judge said that confiscating the home would have "draconian" consequences. [Hassan Ghani/Al Jazeera]

The family of Munir Farooqi, the British Muslim man convicted of attempting to recruit men to fight in Afghanistan, has won a court case to keep their home despite a seizure order by authorities.

Judge Richard Henriques at Manchester Crown Court ruled on Friday that confiscating the home would have “draconian, severe and unjust” consequences. He said the action would serve to make a “wholly innocent” family homeless.

Speaking to Al Jazeera following the court decision Harris Farooqi, Munir Farooqi’s son, said: “We made it very clear, three and a half years ago, that this is not in the public interest, and there’s no need to make us go through hell because there’s no logical case behind this. It’s really frustrating that we’ve had to go through mental torture for no reason whatsoever.”

As part of a public campaign, the Farooqi family had handed in a petition with 50,000 signatures against the forfeiture of their home to the Crown Prosecution Service.

“The support we’ve received from the community has been outstanding. It’s been diverse – from Christians, to atheists, to Muslims – it’s been overwhelming.”

A proportionate response

However the judgment at Manchester Crown Court also ordered Munir Farooqi to pay 500,000 GBP in legal costs. It’s not yet clear how the court intends to recover the sum.

Reacting to the court ruling, Detective Superintendent Julian Richardson of Greater Manchester Police told Al Jazeera: “The ruling by Sir Richard Henriques demonstrates a proportionate response to the evidence placed before the Court.” 

The Crown had agreed the ruling gave proper consideration to all involved so that no party was unduly punished or made homeless as a result of the hearing, Richardson added. 

“The 500,000 GBP costs order should draw to a conclusion this protracted and complex investigation into the most serious offences that threatened the lives of coalition Forces overseas.” 

Secret filming

Munir Farooqi, 56, was convicted under UK terrorism laws after undercover police officers, posing as convert Muslims, secretly filmed him in his home over a period of approximately a year.

In one of the video recordings he said, “Jihad is not just to go and give your life away, no. If we’re going to go there we make sure we take at least forty, fifty people with us.”

He received an 18-year-sentence for his comments, and was found guilty in 2011 in a British court of “preparing for acts of terrorism”, “soliciting to murder” and “dissemination of terrorist publications”.

Harris Farooqi told Al Jazeera that he believed his father’s words were taken out of context and the result of provocation. “Over a year’s deployment my father has only supposedly radicalised two individuals that want to go and fight in Afghanistan, and they turned out to be the undercover officers. There’s only one recording that lasts about 45 seconds.”

The Crown Prosecution Service had sought to seize Munir Farooqi’s family home on the basis that it was used for the “purposes of terrorism”. If successful it would have been the first time that a home was seized as a “terrorist asset” under UK laws.

The property is home to three generations of the Farooqi family, including Munir Farooqi’s 3-year-old granddaughter, and is registered to his wife Zeenat and daughter Zulaikha Farooqi.

Follow Hassan Ghani on Twitter: @hassan_ghani