THE JURY was still out in the trial against the Yarls Wood refugees as Socialist Worker went to press on Tuesday. The five defendants left at the end of the three-month trial faced prison terms if found guilty. They were charged after the fire that swept through Yarls Wood centre in Bedfordshire on 14 February last year.
The prosecution admitted in the trial that the private security firm Group 4, in charge of Yarls Wood, 'have been a national laughing stock ever since they first blundered into the field of private custodial services. 'You may wonder whether any large commercial organisation could have made a bigger fool of itself even if it had been trying deliberately to do so. They fouled up the initial stages of the police inquiry by the improper showing of photographs to witnesses, they organised group counselling sessions risking the contamination of evidence, they organised further similar counselling shortly before the trial.'
The judge also said to the jury that 'Group 4 were ill-equipped to deal with the violence.'
He added that some witnesses detained at the Yarls Wood centre were absent from the trial because 'some were removed from the country by the home office before they could be interviewed'. Despite this the prosecution claimed it was the five defendants who were lying about what happened that night.
The prosecution showed the jury photographs of Yarls Wood before and after the fire and said, 'That was not done by a group of innocent bystanders, was it?' Henry Momodou, Lucky Jacobs, Kayode Abdul, all from Nigeria, and George Tuka and Behar Limani, both from Kosovo, were in the dock. All were charged with violent disorder and one with arson.
Their barristers put their case to the jury. Lucky Jacobs was 'one of the few men who tried to stop the violence, helped rescue women and children and followed the rules of Yarls Wood and argued within them. 'He was a recognised spokesperson who won a number of concessions for detainees,' said his barrister. He added that Lucky Jacobs had helped rescue detention custody officers. He said, 'That is relevant because the only evidence of acts of mercy is of detainees helping other detainees and detention custody officers.'
George Tuka's barrister explained how a Group 4 custody officer 'thanked George Tuka for looking after him, speaking Italian to him and protecting him. Families 'He went to help people get out, protect a Group 4 custody officer and to protect a lady being raped. That tells you what George Tuka is about.' Behar Limani's barrister told of how 'he assisted in getting three families in particular out of the building. Are those the actions of a man involved in violent disorder and running riot?'
Kayode Abdul's barrister described how he 'played football every day, watches football at night and is inclined to overeat. He was woken from his daytime slumbers by being told there's a fire. Is that the portrait of a firebrand and hothead?'
The barrister for Henry Momodu, who faced the arson charge, also argued he had no case to answer. The verdict in the trial was due this week.
Shut down Dungavel detention centre now!
Demonstration called by the STUC Saturday 6 September, 12 noon Dungavel detention centre, near Strathaven
Buses leave George Square at 11am Speakers include Bill Speirs, Glasgow Campaign to Welcome Refugees and South Lanarkshire trades council