Foreign Office blow to IRA Canary Wharf bomb victims—13 years on
PUBLISHED: 23:29 19 November 2008 | UPDATED: 13:48 05 October 2010
SURVIVORS of the 1996 Canary Wharf IRA bombing have suffered a fresh blow this week in their 13-year fight for justice. The Foreign Office has told families it will no longer pursue Libya to pay compensation to survivors. The shock comes only weeks after Libya said it would pay compensation to American victims of terrorism, but not to British victims
ABOVE: Security guard Jonathan Ganesh being rescued from the rubble and (inset) 13 years on, fighting for justice for other victims Gemaa and Zaoui Berezag (left) and Joyce Brown
By Vivienne Raper
SURVIVORS of the 1996 Canary Wharf IRA bombing have suffered a fresh blow this week in their 13-year fight for justice.
The Foreign Office has told families in London’s East End that it will no longer pursue Libya to pay compensation to survivors.
The shock comes only weeks after Libya said it would pay compensation to American victims of terrorism, but not to British victims.
Libya was widely-blamed for supplying Semtex explosive to the IRA who set off the half-tonne bomb in a lorry parked at Canary Wharf.
Two people died in the blast. Another 39 were injured, including security guards and families from Millwall’s nearby Barkantine estate on the Isle of Dogs.
Security guard Jonathan Ganesh, who was caught in the blast with his leg badly cut by glass, launched a new fight for justice on Monday after the Foreign Office advised him they were dropping the case.
The 36-year-old from Limehouse, who was 23 when he was rescued from the rubble, is now raising a petition and plans to lobby MPs at Westminster.
“The Government has let the Libyans off scot-free,” he told the East London Advertiser.
“They’ve tried to brush this issue under the carpet.”
He doesn’t want compensation for his injuries 13 years ago. He would, however, like an apology from Libya’s Colonel Gaddafi.
“The money doesn’t bother me,” Jonathan adds. “But I can’t let my friends die like that—they were blown to pieces. They couldn’t even be identified.”
His two friends, Inan Bashir and John Jefferies, died at the news kiosk they ran at South Quay DLR station.
The Foreign Office letter Mr Ganesh received on Friday states: “Libya has answered questions about its involvement with the IRA and considers the matter closed. It would be strongly opposed to reopen it.”
The Libyans are now “a vital partner in guaranteeing a secure energy future for the UK” and also partners in the fight against terrorism, the letter adds.
The campaigners are backed by MPs including an outspoken Andrew Mackinlay, who said: “It’s a pathetic response by a limp Foreign Office.”
WE LOST EVERYTHING
Mother-of-three Gemaa Berezag still lives on the Barkantine estate, within sight of the Canary Wharf blast that affects her family even today.
He 67-year-old husband Zaoui still needs 24-hour care, 13 years on, from severe brain damage he suffered. Two of her children were also injured.
“We lost everything that day,” she recalls.
“I lost my job, my car—and lost my husband as far as I’m concerned. I lost my health—the lot.”
Office cleaner Gemaa was due to at the Midland Bank’s Canary Wharf building that night.
Burt her youngest daughter was ill, so her husband volunteered to do her cleaning job with help from their son Farid and older daughter Layla.
They had just finished when the bomb went off.
“Something hit my husband in the head which split open,” Gemaa remembers. “He was two weeks in a coma, then came out of it a totally different person.”
Her son needed an operation to remove metal lodged close to his spine. Metal also lodged in her daughter’s leg.
The family would also like an apology, as well as compensation to help look after Zaoui 24-seven.
“We’ve had a bad, bad life since,” Gemaa adds. “It changed me completely from a worker to a carer. Whoever was behind the bomb has to pay.
“Money won’t bring my husband back the way he was, but I need all the help I can get.”
Her office cleaner neighbour Joyce Brown, now 51, was also in the Midland Bank when it took the full blast of the IRA bomb.
But she had a narrow escape and walked out of the wreckage without a scratch because she was cleaning the toilets which had no windows.
Joyce and partner Craig Wisden, a 46-year-old milkman who lost a fifth of his income after businesses on his round were destroyed or moved away, also want Gaddafi to say sorry.
There is still anger in Joyce’s voice 13 years after: “You don’t give someone Semtex and expect them to put it in a cupboard and leave it—you expect them to use it on people like us.”
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