Sunday December 03, 2023

Asif Hafeez denied access to lawyer by UK prison service

December 26, 2021

LONDON: The UK Government’s Prisons and Probation Services has stopped Pakistan national former gold merchant Mohammad Asif Hafeez from speaking to his lawyer in Pakistan via video link over several weeks now.

Mohammad Asif Hafeez is imprisoned at the infamous Belmarsh prison while fighting an extradition request by the US government on Class A drugs import charges.

Her Majesty’s Prisons and Probation Service has given a strange reason as to why Muhammad Asif Hafeez cannot speak to his lawyer via video link, according to a letter of the prison services seen by this correspondent. While refusing to give permission to Hafeez from speaking to his lawyer via video conference, Her Majesty’s Prisons and Probation Service has said that Hafeez’s request cannot be accommodated because his Pakistan based lawyer Omer Farouk Adam “needs to have a British passport for us to facilitate clearance”.

Not only that the prison services are refusing to allow Hafeez to speak to his lawyer O Omer Farouk Adam, they have told his second lawyer that they will not allow him to meet Asif Hafeez in person if he traveled to the UK from Pakistan.

The prison service has said that its policy of granting prison visits to foreigners has changed since then and only people with the “appropriate identification” can visit the prison to meet their clients.

When approached by this reporter, Omer Farouk Adam confirmed that he has been barred from speaking to his client.

Omer Farouk Adam said: “I was previously allowed telephone and video contact with Mr Asif Hafeez and have visited Hafeez twice in Belmarsh prison. Our office in Islamabad has numerously requested UK prison authorities to abide by their obligations and allow access to Mr Asif Hafeez but they continue to fail in their obligations.

“We have initiated proceedings in Islamabad high court for a direction to the government of Pakistan to apply for the extradition of Mr Asif Hafeez to Pakistan. Once extradited to Pakistan he can be tried for the offences alleged by the US authorities.

It is our opinion also that the incarceration and persecution of Mr Hafeez is illegal and for extraneous considerations to pressurise Pakistan in respect of FATF black list and to appease the unscrupulous Indian government.

This is nothing but a witch hunt and Mr Hafeez has been punished for no legal and moral justification.”

Speaking to this reporter, another legal representative of Asif Hafez said that UK prison authorities have been treating the Pakistani national unfairly.

He said Asif Hafeez was not given access to essential medicines for several weeks and after that issue was resolved now the prison authorities have created a new issue by denying him his fundamental right to have access to his lawyers to prepare his case.

The legal representative said that Asif Hafeez’s case is spread over Pakistan, UK, Middle East and Africa and he needs to speak to his lawyers in all these jurisdictions on regular basis to deal with his appeal at the European Court of Human Rights against the US bid to extradite him to America to face trial which carries prison term for several decades.

The lawyer said that Asif Hafeez’s defence has already suffered due to the hurdles created by the prison services as his defence lawyers have not been able to prepare arguments on his behalf for an important upcoming hearing.

On the UK soil, there is no case against Asif Hafeez and he has never been charged for any wrongdoing in the UK or anywhere else but he is being held at the Belmarsh prison on the request of the American government after being arrested in London on 25 August 2017.

Hafeez is wanted for a trial in the USA for drug trafficking related offenses in the USA District court for the Southern District of New York which has charged Hafeez with conspiracy to import heroin into the US, carrying a maximum penalty of life imprisonment; conspiracy to import Methamphetamine into the US, carrying a maximum penalty of life imprisonment; and aiding and abetting the manufacturing and distribution of heroin, knowing and intending that it will be imported into the US, carrying a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. Asif Hafeez has strongly denied allegations that he was the “Sultan” of drugs.

The US has linked Hafeez to the Indian national Goswami and his wife Mamta Kulkarni, a well-known Bollywood actress, alleging that they were also part of Hafeez’s gang and ran a factory in India to manufacture ephedrine, the deadly drug’s active ingredient.

It alleged that this drug from India was then due to be smuggled to Mozambique. Asif Hafeez has denied all charges.

He maintains that he has been fixed by the US authorities and has done no wrongdoing. The prison authorities refused to comment for over one week.