The Criminal Investigation Department (CID) arrested Mohamed Razeek Mohamed Ramzy at his home in Katugastota in April 2020 for, among other things, violating the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
His crime was to have written a Facebook post urging Muslims to respond to alleged racist attacks on their community by engaging in “ideological jihad” (struggle) with a “pen and keyboard.”
Today, free and exonerated by the Supreme Court (SC), Mr. Ramzy, a poet and social media activist, reflects on that painful period and the permanent scars it left on him, his wife, and their two teenage children. “I suffered so much,” he said in an interview with the Sunday Times. “And my family suffered a lot, too.”
Asked if he regrets using the word ‘Jihad’ in his post, which became contentious–and whether he would have phrased the post differently–he said, “I don’t think it’s necessary to change anything about the post. I only need to change something if it’s wrong.”
“I used the word ‘Jihad’ because I wrote that post for the Muslim community,” he maintained. “So, when I address them I should allude to things understood by Muslims, not writing like a plain report. We use poetic words and language from our literature.”
On November 14, this year, the Supreme Court ruled that Mr. Ramzy’s fundamental rights had been violated. It also determined that by posting the disputed message on the social media site, he had not committed any offence under the ICCPR Act, the Penal Code, or the Computer Crime Act—the three laws that were used to carry out the arrest and detention.
By then, irreversible damage had been done. Mr. Ramzy received anti-Muslim hate messages and death threats in the days following the controversial post. He filed a police report. It elicited neither a response nor any form of protection. He was arrested that evening. He was detained for the next five months and eight days. He was granted bail in September 2020.
Following his arrest, Mr. Ramzy was brought to Colombo and kept overnight at the CID headquarters, where he claims he was beaten by assailants who insulted Allah and shouted, “You tried to declare war on us.” He was produced before a magistrate the next day and placed on remand, where his health deteriorated.
Mr. Ramzy has rheumatoid arthritis, a condition that forced his early retirement as an interpreter for the Agriculture Department. “Because of my ailment, sleeping on the cement floor with no pillows was very painful,” he said. “It was so crowded that some prisoners slept in the toilets, and others even stood.”
Even using the restroom became a hurdle, as the prison only had squatting pans. Within two months, Mr. Ramzy was treated at the prison hospital for ulcers on his legs. “They only gave me painkillers and dressed my wounds,” he said. “The staff claimed they didn’t have the medicine I needed, and since it was Corona time, my family could not continue sending my arthritis medication.”
Another time, while being rushed by prison guards to attend an online meeting with the magistrate, Mr. Ramzy slipped and injured his arm. “My arthritis makes me slow to get ready, but I was forced to hurry,” he said. “I just put up with the pain through the meeting.”
Source: Sunday Times