`When we turned to Foreign Office, they just ignored us'

RASHID BUTT has an unenviable task. On his return to Birmingham he has to explain to his brother's children where their father, Shahid, is - and why.

Mr Butt, whose brother Shahid was yesterday jailed for five years in Yemen, told an emotionally charged London press conference that the "joke trial" had been a nightmare. Breaking into tears as he ploughed through a prepared statement, Mr Butt could not hide his frustration at perceived Foreign Office inactivity, which he said bordered on the institutional racism exhibited during the Stephen Lawrence murder inquiry.

"Every time we have turned to official sources we have had the door slammed in our faces," he said. "We must not let this become another Lawrence tragedy. I am completely devastated and have the impossible task of going home to explain to my family and my brother's four kids, including his son Mulahim who cries every night for his father, that their father won't be coming back home."

His anger was shared by Atif Ahmed, the brother of Samad Ahmed, also jailed for five years. Mr Ahmed said British diplomats were guilty of "double standards" in dealing with Anglo-Asians abroad.

Rashad Yaqoob, the campaign's legal adviser, said: "This is an opportunity for the British Government to demonstrate the commitment that it does not at all look at race or colour when fulfilling its legal obligation to protect all its citizens abroad." The Government's perceived handling of the affair has angered the British Muslim community.

Last night, Peter Hain, a Foreign Office minister, said Tony Blair and Robin Cook, the Foreign Secretary, had made their concerns clear to the Yemeni Prime Minister.

He said: "We continue to take seriously the allegations that some of the men were tortured whilst in custody. The Prime Minister is writing to President Saleh."

Downing Street said the letter would be sent within 24 hours but the details would not be made public.

It was too little, too late, according to one campaign lawyer, Natalia Garcia. The Foreign Office, she said, had bitterly opposed - and ultimately defeated - attempts by Mr Butt's family for a judicial review of the official handling of the men's case in both the High Court and the Court of Appeal.

Abu Hamza al-Masry, the north London cleric who the Yemenis maintain organised the alleged terror campaign, said he was not surprised at the verdicts. His 17-year-old son Mustafa Kamel was among those jailed.

"Of course as a father I am disappointed and also for the families I am disappointed. They have been caught in a vicious crossfire ...I can see from the trial that it has been just a retaliation against me."

Iqbal Sacranie, secretary general of the Muslim Council of Great Britain, appealed to the President of Yemen, Ali Abdullah Saleh, to show mercy on the convicted men and let them come back to Britain.

He also said the episode showed that the Muslim community needed to pay more attention to its "alienated youth".

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Analyst - 12 Month FTC - Entry Level

£23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Analyst is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Chefs - All Levels

£16000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To succeed, you will need to ha...

Recruitment Genius: Maintenance Engineer

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join an award winni...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive & Customer Service - Call Centre Jobs!

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Day In a Page

Isis in Syria: Influential tribal leaders hold secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over possibility of mobilising against militants

Tribal gathering

Influential clans in Syria have held secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over the possibility of mobilising against Isis. But they are determined not to be pitted against each other
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians
Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously

Illnesses, car crashes and suicides

Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously
Srebrenica 20 years after the genocide: Why the survivors need closure

Bosnia's genocide, 20 years on

No-one is admitting where the bodies are buried - literally and metaphorically
How Comic-Con can make or break a movie: From Batman vs Superman to Star Wars: Episode VII

Power of the geek Gods

Each year at Comic-Con in San Diego, Hollywood bosses nervously present blockbusters to the hallowed crowd. It can make or break a movie
What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?

Perfect match

What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?
10 best trays

Get carried away with 10 best trays

Serve with ceremony on a tray chic carrier
Wimbledon 2015: Team Murray firing on all cylinders for SW19 title assault

Team Murray firing on all cylinders for title assault

Coaches Amélie Mauresmo and Jonas Bjorkman aiming to make Scot Wimbledon champion again
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!
Ashes 2015: Angus Fraser's top 10 moments from previous series'

Angus Fraser's top 10 Ashes moments

He played in five series against Australia and covered more as a newspaper correspondent. From Waugh to Warne and Hick to Headley, here are his highlights
Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high