Mohamad Jamal Morad, living in Austria for 42 years, said he will not and cannot forget the excessive force used by the police in a raid targeting his home under the pretext of a “terror operation”.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Morad said he has been living in the Austrian capital Vienna and chairing NGOs, and also has been a part of the Austrian Islamic Community, which represents Muslims in the country for the last 11 years.
Morad said that as a Muslim activist through social work he has conducted for many years, he developed a good solidarity and relationship with high-level police officials, bureaucrats, and politicians.
“Through good relations and cooperation we have established with the authorities, we worked together and acted in mutual solidarity to serve social peace in Vienna, the city where we live. This cooperation has always been positive. I've never had any problems with the police or the state in my life,” he said.
Morad said the police raid took place on Nov. 9 at 5 a.m. His wife called him fearing the noise coming from outside could be burglars. Then five to six men in black clothes broke into the home.
“I paused for a few seconds to understand what was happening. At first, I thought they could be thieves, but then unfortunately I noticed that the special commando and police, equipped from top to bottom, had entered,” he said.
“Security forces broke my door and entered my bedroom without the need to press the doorbell and pointed the barrel of their guns at me. I noticed that the cops were very nervous, their hands were alert and the guns were unlocked. They had prepared as if I was going to respond to them,” he added.
Morad said the police entered the children’s room with the same attitude, while he was on the floor, his hands tied behind his head.
“When I saw them, I shouted loudly: 'Please don't wake my children up like this.’ I shouted a few more times but they didn't respond. I told the cops with their guns pointed at me that they do not have the right to wake up the sleeping children like this and that if anything happens, I would sue them.”
The police also entered the children’s room very loudly, woke them up and ordered them to stand up, he said.
“They acted as if they are attacking an enemy line in a battlefield. I was shocked for a while, I guess I will never forget those moments,” Morad said.
“Then I tried to pull myself together. Where am I? Am I in Vienna? Am I at home? Or am I in Syria, where similar things happen every day? I talked to myself, and tried to grasp the situation I was in. Then, unfortunately, I noticed that I was at home in Vienna, where I lived peacefully for 42 years.”
You are an innocent person for me
Morad said the police were acting like they were combatting terrorists.
“Then the supervisor of the team raiding our home arrived. I asked him ‘What are you doing here? Why are you acting like this? You know me and I know you.’ And he said: ‘I know you very well, I know your past very well. For me, you are an innocent person, but I've received an order, and I'm following that’.”
Morad said the police handed him a file containing allegations and accusations as well as names of some other 29 people who were subjected to the same treatment.
According to Morad, some of those in the list were well-known acquaintances and doing a good job of contributing to the society and the list was prepared by the so-called experts known for their anti-Islamism.
After raiding his home, police took Morad to his work place. There were nearly 25 police officers and 10 police cars, said Morad, adding that unfortunately his neighbors also witnessed the treatment he was subjected to.
He said he has not yet been subjected to any hostility from neighbors and acquaintances.
“But I can see in their eyes that they're thinking ‘a terrorist is living next to us.’ Unfortunately, I should live with this for a while.”
Morad said that his bank accounts were blocked after the operation, his commercial activities completely stopped, and his lawyer could not access the case file due to confidentiality reasons. He did not know what the concrete accusation was against him, which was a fundamental violation of rights, he added.
Morad said he will continue his legal battle and the operations caused a serious fear among Muslim community in Austria.
Morad’s two daughters aged 7 and 12 and were subjected to the same treatment, which caused some serious psychological problems.
Morad’s eldest daughter R.M. said she woke up hearing a loud noise and shouting, and before she could understand what was happening, the police entered her room with long-barreled weapons.
She said the police waited for a while without speaking at first.
“One of them told me to look at my sister. I looked at her. Her eyes were closed. Then I looked at her again and noticed that her eyes were slightly open. She was awake but closing her eyes out of fear,” she recalled.
Noting that she was shocked by the raid, R.M. said she had mixed feelings such as fear, uncertainty, and anxiety, and she was trying to understand why they were subjected to such a treatment.
Her sister has been suffering from terrible stomachache since the raid, she added.
“My sister doesn't want to talk about this. I think she's suppressing her feelings. For a week after the incident, we slept alongside our parents. We didn't want to go back to the room where all this happened,” she also said.
Some 30 Muslim activists and academics were detained and interrogated in police raids in 60 addresses on Nov. 9 in an operation called “Operation Luxor” on charges of "establishing a terrorist organization, financial support for terrorism, organized crime formation, and money laundering" in Austria.
The disproportionate use of force by the police against people well-known to the public and treating them as terrorists led to reactions from various segments of the society. Many NGOs, journalists, and writers called for the issue to be urgently clarified.
* Writing by Busra Nur Bilgic Cakmak in Ankara.Anadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.