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Thulsie twins’ financial support points to bigger forces at play

  • Thulsietwins
Terror-accused Thulsie twins Brandon-Lee and Tony-Lee once again appeared in the South Gauteng High Court on Tuesday, this time to hear about preparations for their trial.
by TALI FEINBERG | Jun 13, 2019

They were arrested three years ago, accused of plotting to attack South African Jewish institutions including schools and youth movement camps, Jewish individuals, and the United States embassy.

Looking into the twins’ support system, the SA Jewish Report found that they are backed by an organisation called Cage, formerly known as Cageprisoners. It describes itself as a charity and advocacy organisation to “empower communities impacted by the war on terror”. However, journalist Terry Glavin wrote in the Canadian National Post that the organisation is “a front for Taliban enthusiasts and al-Qaeda devotees that fraudulently presents itself as a human-rights group”. The Economist says it supports “defensive jihad”.

Local terrorism expert Jasmine Opperman told the SA Jewish Report that “Cage is anti-Western, pro-Hamas, pro-Hezbollah, and has a strong anti-Israel stance. It will do anything to protect Muslim rights, even if it inflames the situation.”

An anonymous source close to the Thulsie case said that Cage “assists al-Qaeda and ISIS operatives that have been arrested in the West. The Thulsies’ wives, children, and attorneys are getting a stipend from them, so they are beholden to Cage.”

The Thulsies’ sister, Salomi McKuur, wrote on the Cage website in July 2018 saying, “We do not know where we would be if it were not for Cage Africa and the Muslim Lawyers Association. You are sent from Allah. We will never be able to repay you, but you will always be in our family’s prayers.”

The anonymous source has reason to believe that Cage might have an interest in delaying the Thulsies’ case. If the twins were linked to a larger IS cell, it would be better that they did not stand trial and divulge what they know.

The Cage website openly calls for donations to support the Thulsies. “Cage Africa is appealing for funds to assist the Thulsie twins in their defence ... family and friends insist the twins are innocent of all charges.

“The Thulsies cannot afford lawyers. This case will set a precedent under South Africa’s Promotion of Constitutional Democracy and Terrorism Act, the broad reach of which has caused alarm to Muslim and civil society organisations. Please donate, however small, to their lawyer’s account,” says the appeal, followed by the twins’ lawyer’s bank details.

Karen Jayes, a spokesperson for Cage Africa, added to the above plea, saying, “Under the current toxic global climate and discrimination against Muslims, it is a concern that the first publicised case of the anti-terrorism act is against Muslims. Anti-terrorism laws politicise crimes, and are unnecessary.

“The Thulsie family are under tremendous stress and scrutiny. We are appealing to all willing and able donors to help ensure a fair trial.”

Cage is allowed to operate in the United Kingdom, but some are questioning its motives, especially since the organisation’s Asim Qureshi said it had been in regular contact with Mohammed Emwazi, the man also known as “Jihadi John”. He is a British ISIS operative who beheaded a number of Westerners on film in Syria. Qureshi called Emwazi a “beautiful young man”.

At the time, British Labour Party Member of Parliament John Spellar said that Cage was “very clearly coming out as apologists for terrorism”. As reported in the Telegraph, “Cage campaigns for actual terrorists convicted not by kangaroo courts but by juries, on strong evidence, in properly conducted trials. It even campaigns for some terrorists who actually pleaded guilty.

“Other Cage favourites include Abu Qatada, al-Qaeda cleric Anwar al-Awlaki – linked to at least a dozen terrorist attacks – and Boko Haram, the Nigerian Islamist group which abducted 275 schoolgirls”, according to the Telegraph article. (The “Bring Back Our Girls” campaign is a “colonial trope”, and criticism of Boko Haram is about “demonising Islam”, according to the Cage website.)

Advocate Allan Ngari, senior researcher at the Institute for Security Studies, said there was inaccuracy in some of Cage Africa’s reporting, for example, regarding the prosecution of Omar Awadh Omar in Uganda. “I certainly agree with the need to uphold the rights of suspects accused of terrorism offenses, but it must be done within the remit of the rule of law. Propaganda does nothing but undermine the efforts of criminal justice systems in Africa working towards addressing terrorism offenses,” he said.

“Its agenda is actually to undermine the efforts of the criminal justice system. It strikes me as bizarre as its message is not accurate. Yes, there are challenges in dealing with terrorism cases, but it does not help to spread half-truths. It should not even be discussing the Thulsie case, as it is sub-judice (under judicial consideration). Peddling it means it has no understanding of how the criminal justice system works.”

The Thulsie twins’ trial date is set for 7 October, but having been postponed more than 30 times, it might just be postponed again. Meanwhile, they continue to be backed by Cage, demonstrating how this case could well be linked to much larger forces at play.

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