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GUANTANAMO PROTEST IN BRUM

11-07-2007

Dozens of protestors gathered outside the factory of Birmingham handcuff manufacturer Hiatt to mark the fifth anniversary of Camp Delta at Guantanamo Bay - the US detention centre where four men from the West Midlands were held and later released without charge.

Gitmo Birthday cake

Moazzam Begg from Sparkbrook and the so-called Tipton Three - Ruhal Ahmed, Shafique Rasul and Asif Iqbal - have all spoken about the inhumane conditions in which they were kept at the Cuban base, and Hiatt, who are based in Great Barr, have been accused of helping the Americans by the supplying chains which are used to shackle prisoners.

The company has never admitted supplying the US military directly nor has the link been proven, but ithas nevertheless become the focus for local anti Guantanamo sentiment.

Among the crowd who gathered outside the factory was Sandy Mitchell, a Glaswegian who'd been held in a Saudi Arabian prison for a crime he didn't commit.

Sandy Mitchell

During his time in prison, he was tortured and restrained using handcuffs made in England - possibly at Hiatt.

Hiatt Cuffs

Other campaigners spoke at their disgust at Birmingham being a centre of manufacturing of restraints which can be sold to repressive regimes.

Not everyone was unsympathetic to the company though. One passer-by who didn't want to be filmed was disgusted at the prospect that Hiatt might be closed down as a result of the protests.

She told us: “They've shut everything else down, at least they are still making something here.”

And a worker at the factory next door argued that even if Hiatt closed there would be another company somewhere else willing to make similar restraints so the problem wouldn't go away.

Another passer-by reckoned President Blair and Mr Bush ought to be manacled and handcuffed and paraded in front of the factory.

When The Stirrer contacted Hiatt they told us they had no comment.

Should Hiatt be condemned for making chains and handcuffs that could end up in the hands of repressive regimes? Or are they doing a good job keeping manufacturing alive in Birmingham? Leave a comment on our messageboard.

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