Guyana arrests, releases Nation of Islam cleric

Photo by Jules Dixon

When Minister Akbar Muhammad, Nation of Islam (NOI) international ambassador for Africa, arrived in Guyana last weekend for meetings with Afrocentric groups and leading cultural figures, nothing in his wildest dreams had prepared him for a night and a day in one of the country’s filthiest police cells, reportedly on trumped up allegations of international terrorism and drug trafficking.

Hampton, Virginia-born Muhammad, 69, a representative of NOI leader, Hon. Louis Farrakhan, had visited the Caribbean country — headquarters of the Caribbean Community several times in the past, on trips dating back to the 1980s, but nothing like this had happened before.

Police waited until the Muslim cleric was asleep at the Turkish-owned Princess Hotel outside Georgetown, the Guyana capital, to rouse him from his bed, telling him that the U.S. CIA had called to say that he was involved in terrorism and drug trafficking.

He would spend all day Thursday in detention and overnight Thursday in a dirty cell at the Central Police Station on Brickdam with dozens of other prisoners, sitting on cold, hard concrete floors brushing aside mosquitoes and being shuffled between the cell, his hotel and police headquarters on the Atlantic seashore, where he was questioned about the people he had been associating with since arriving in the country.

In the end police, who reportedly did not not have a single iota of evidence that Muhammad and two associates who were also detained with him were in any way associated with terrorism or drugs — simply released them late Friday afternoon, much to the consternation of Muhammad, who demanded a state apology.

“I don’t want them to issue it in a corner because this arrow has already left the bow.

“You can’t call it back but you can put out an apology that the government of Guyana apologizes to Akbar Muhammad and the two brothers, because we received some erroneous information and we found out that Akbar Muhammad is not a terrorist or a drug dealer,” he said, speaking outside police headquarters.

Local political scientists like Elvin McDavid have speculated that Muhammad was arrested and roughed up because he had come to associate with people not in bed with the Bharrat Jagdeo administration.

“I suspect it happened to him because he dealt with the opposition. I figure they thought he had come to help organize the opposition and to help the opposition PNC,” McDavid said.

He had twice appeared on private television, hosting one-hour call-in shows and had traveled to the coastal village of Buxton which armed gangs had used as a base between 2002 and 2008 to coax young children away from drugs and into classrooms. A judge even denied a habeas corpus motion against the police by his lawyer, Nigel Hughes.

“This is the work I have been doing 51 years of my life. I became a Muslim when I was 18 years old under Malcom X,” Muhammad said, suggesting his own arrest had to do with “political dynamics.”

Muhammad has since left the country, uncertain as to whether he will ever return. He even said that Minister Farrakhan, whom had been associated withor 46 years, had telephoned Jagdeo to vouch for his background.

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