Shrinking group fights to reclaim Diego Garcia as home

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POINTE AUX SABLES, Mauritius -- In the nearly 40 years since she was turned her out of her home on the Chagos Islands, 81-year-old Rita Isou has concluded: "The British can do anything they want with the law."

Now a grandmother, she is one of a shrinking group of Indian Ocean islanders still fighting in the courts to relive the memories of plentiful fish and mangoes in the home she was forced out of to defend British and American military interests.

In the 1960s and 1970s Britain destroyed houses, slaughtered animals, and turfed out some 2,000 inhabitants from the Chagos islands to Mauritius and the Seychelles, to make way for a U.S. military base, on the island of Diego Garcia.

Isou had been visiting Mauritius with her mother in 1968 and when they tried to go home, were told their islands had been sold: "It was like getting a knife in the heart," she said.

Described in 1975 by The Washington Post as an "act of mass kidnapping", the stealthy explusion of the islanders by Britain -- then the colonial power -- has since been subject to legal wrangling so protracted that people like Isou may be dead before it is resolved.

"My heart is burning," Isou said, as she waited for the latest judgment, this time from the British High Court, which held a hearing in February.

The base, which has been used to support the West's Afghan campaign, became fully operational in 1986 and was intensely involved in 1990 when Iraq invaded Kuwait, according to an official U.S. navy Web site.

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