A crown court judge has called for Babar Ahmad’s seven year custody “ordeal” to be resolved after a jury cleared four police officers of assaulting him during his arrest.
A jury at Southwark Crown Court took just an hour to clear four Metropolitan Police (Met) officers of beating up the Tooting terror suspect during a raid on his Fountain Road home on December 2, 2003.
The officers – Detective Constable John Donohue, 37, and PCs Roderick James-Bowen, 40, Mark Jones, 43, and Nigel Cowley, 34 – were said to have punched Mr Ahmad in the face and body, stamped on his feet and used handcuffs to injure his wrists and forearms.
It was also claimed they placed him in a praying position and asked: “Where is your God now?”
But after a month-long trial all four officers from the Met’s Territorial Support Group (TSG) were cleared of assault occasioning actual bodily harm.
Mr Ahmad, an IT technician at Imperial College, London, was believed to be the leader of a small UK based group providing “logistical support, financial assistance, recruits and computer expertise” for overseas Jihadi groups when he was arrested.
He was later released without charge but was placed back in custody in August, 2004, awaiting extradition to the United States on terror charges. Mr Ahmad has been in custody without trial as he has fought the extradition through the courts.
He watched much of the trial via live video link from prison.
Professor Peter Vanezis, one of Britain’s most eminent forensic pathologists, told the court that in his opinion, the injuries sustained by Mr Ahmad supported his version of events.
He said Mr Ahmad had suffered at least 12 separate injuries to his head and neck, which were “likely to be caused by separate blows rather than falls”.
Mark Ewen, one of Mr Ahmad’s neighbours, told the court that on the morning of the arrest he saw a figure with a blanket over its head being led from Mr Ahmad’s house to a nearby van – adding the person was not resisting the officers.
However, Dr Guy Norfolk, another medical expert, gave conflicting evidence, suggesting many of his injuries were in keeping with the alleged struggle Mr Ahmad put up.
All four defendants had insisted Mr Ahmad violently resisted arrest in the house, and that they had been concerned for their safety.
Mr James-Bowen, who was first into the bedroom, said: “It was an immense struggle. He was resisting my efforts with all his might.”
Jonathan Laidlaw QC, prosecuting, said Detective Chief Inspector Boucher, who led the briefing given to officers before the raid, gave instructions that due consideration was to be shown to the Islamic beliefs of the occupants of the homes to be searched.
The TSG officers were even given a talk by a senior Muslim officer about cultural beliefs and the importance of the prayer room.
Following the verdicts, Judge Geoffrey Rivlin QC, said: “I express the hope that the ordeal of a man in detention in this country for a number of years without trial is brought to an end as soon as possible, either by his extradition or by his release.
“It is no concern of this court as to which, but it is a matter of concern, and I would have thought should be a matter of concern for the public at large, quite apart from Mr Ahmad, that here is a man who has been in custody for literally years without knowing what his fate is to be.”