Guantánamo actors questioned under terror act after film festival
by Vikram Dodd
Four actors who play al-Qaida suspects in a British movie that won a prestigious prize were detained by the police at Luton airport as they returned from the Berlin Film Festival and questioned under anti-terror laws, alongside two of the former terrorism suspects they play on screen.
They were returning last Thursday after the premiere of the film, The Road to Guantánamo. It depicts the life of three men from Tipton in the West Midlands, who go to Afghanistan and end up being held for two years by the US at its military base on Cuba before being released without charge.
The film, directed by Michael Winterbottom, won the Silver Bear award for direction at Berlin on Sunday. Released in Britain next month, it depicts the alleged shackling, torture and other ill treatment the Tipton detainees claim they suffered at the hands of the Americans.
The film's producers say four actors from the film, who all play terrorism suspects, were detained at Luton airport after flying back from Germany on an easyJet flight. They included Rizwan Ahmed and Farhad Harun, who were stopped along with Shafiq Rasul and Rhuhel Ahmed, the former Guantánamo inmates they play on screen.
In a statement, Rizwan Ahmed said police swore at him and asked if he had become an actor to further the Islamic cause. He said he was at first denied access to a lawyer and was questioned about his views on the Iraq war by a policewoman. "She asked me whether I intended to do more documentary films, specifically more political ones like The Road to Guantánamo. She asked 'Did you become an actor mainly to do films like this, to publicise the struggles of Muslims?'"
Mr Ahmed alleged that he had a telephone wrestled from his hand as he tried to contact a lawyer and was later abused. He claimed that one police officer had called him a "fucker".
Melissa Parmenter, co-producer of the film, described the detention and questioning as outrageous.
A spokeswoman for Bedfordshire police, which patrols Luton airport, said that none of the six men had been arrested. "The police officers wanted to ask them some questions under the counter-terrorism act," she said. "All were released within the hour. Part of the counter-terrorism act allows us to stop and examine people if something happens that might be suspicious."