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Abduction torment of Norwich mum

PUBLISHED: 09:33 03 November 2010 | UPDATED: 15:26 03 November 2010

Anita Lewis (previously Elgirnazi) who is on a Sky News documentary. Photo: Sky News

Anita Lewis (previously Elgirnazi) who is on a Sky News documentary. Photo: Sky News

A heartbroken Norwich mother has had another emotional reunion with the five children who were abducted from her a decade ago – and this time television cameras were there to film the joy and despair.

But that was not all the documentary makers captured on film – Anita Lewis’s former husband Azzedin Journazi was recorded admitting he organised the abduction of the children.

And Norfolk police, who have been provided with a tape by the Sky News film crew, have said he will be arrested if he ever sets foot in Britain again.

Anita, then known as Anita Elgirnazi, was living in Saxlingham Nethergate when her nightmare began in June 2000 when her children Rumaysa, Safiya, Ali, Hamza and Aisha were taken from her.

She had split with their father and her partner of 11 years before and he had picked them up while on a routine access visit, but never brought them back. Three months later she found they were with their father in Libya and she has since relied on brief reunions with her children. Daughters Rumaysa, 19, and Safiya, 21, are now married, while sons Ali and Hamza are 17 and 14, and other daughter Aisha is 12.

Anita has no legal route to get her children back because Libya has not signed the Hague Convention – which made it easier to deal with child abduction cases. Although the children have been made wards of court in Britain, the orders cannot be enforced.

In September, Sky News cameras accompanied Anita and other women whose children were taken from them in similar circumstances on a two-week trip to Tripoli for emotional reunions.

Charity Children and Families Across Borders obtained permission from the Libyan government for the children to be allowed to go to the Janzour holiday resort.

The documentary Libya: The Stolen Children shows Anita’s joy when she is reunited with her children. But it also reveals her frustration as her visit is constrained by her watchful
ex-partner, which means she and her children spend much of her time in a hotel room.

Anita, 42, who has another son Jake, nine, and daughter Caitlin, seven, from a later relationship, says at one point: “I just find it quite exhausting. There is so much we have to turn a blind eye to or ignore. Things that hurt you or annoy you and there is no way of letting it out until I get home.

“Most people say you should be grateful you see your children and I am grateful I see my children. I am grateful for that, but it is not the big happy family experience it should be.”

Mr Journazi stops Anita from leaving the resort without a male chaperone and also refuses to allow cameras to film her reunion with her daughters, although she does meet her grandson for just the second time. As she lifts him up she says: “You don’t know who I am do you? I’m your nanny.”

While Mr Journazi bans the cameras from filming the face of his daughter Aisha, one of the most moving moments is when she is asked if she is unhappy, She replies: “Yes, because my mother is not with us. I feel bad she is going and I love her so much.”

And the programme shows her sadness as she bids goodbye to her children at the end of two weeks, unsure if or when she will set eyes on then again.

Fighting back tears as she drives to the airport after an all-too-fleeting fortnight, she says: “This is all I have got. This is all I have. I do not have any other options to see my kids. Of course it has been worth it. It is this or nothing.”

At one point in the documentary, Mr Journazi is secretly filmed as he answers questions from Sky News foreign affairs correspondent Lisa Holland.

In 2005 Mustapha Abushim, then 45, from Manchester was convicted at Norwich Crown Court of five counts of conspiracy to kidnap for his part in spiriting the children away to Libya. He had posed as the father of Anita’s daughters and sons, passing them off as five of his 11 children included on his passport to get them out of the country.

During his court case it emerged that top-level al Qaida terrorist Djamel Beghal had been involved in the kidnap plot. That prompts Ms Holland to ask Mr Journazi if he supports al Qaida. He replies: “Maybe. I was in a mosque giving sermons and I am sure the British government knows what I said and know my ideologies.”

He goes on to say he was aware it was illegal to take the children from their mother and added: “If I had the chance to do it again I’d do it again.”

The tape has been passed to Norfolk police.

Speaking about the documentary, Ms Holland said: “Clearly he did not like us being there and by the end of filming the atmosphere was very tense.

“Anita just wants to have a nice time with her children. As she says at the end of the programme, this is all she has got. She was so excited when she was reunited with them, but it’s this idea that you only have two weeks.

“Every time they wanted to go anywhere her husband was insisting that a male chaperone went with them. It meant they were stuck on a holiday camp which was really the equivalent of being at Butlins.

“Every teenage girl wants to go shopping with their mother, but they don’t get to do that and they spent a lot of time sitting in a room.

A spokesman for Norfolk police said “This is an ongoing investigation and Azzedin Journazi is still wanted on suspicion of child abduction in relation to the five children.”

Libya: the Stolen Children airs on Sky News on Friday at 7pm.

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