By Richard Hall
Four police officers were cleared yesterday of assaulting a British terror suspect during an early morning raid on his home.
Passing judgment on a dispute that has lasted over seven years, a jury took just one hour to acquit the officers from the Metropolitan Police’s Territorial Support Group of assaulting Babar Ahmad, who claimed he was beaten, sworn at and had his Islamic faith mocked during his arrest.
Mr Ahmad, 37, was arrested in the early hours of 2 December 2003 on suspicion of leading a group that provided support for al-Qai’da and other fundamentalist networks. He claimed the assault began at his home, where he was forced into the prayer position while officers shouted: “Where is your God now?” and continued in a police van and at a police station.
During the trial the jury heard a recording from an MI5 bug that had been hidden in Mr Ahmad’s home prior to the arrest. Although the bug captured screams, shouts and glass breaking, those words could not be heard in the recording.
PC Roderick James-Bowen, 40, Pc Mark Jones, 43, PC Nigel Cowley, 34, and Detective Constable John Donohue, 37, were found not guilty of attacking the suspect after a month-long trial at London’s Southwark Crown Court. The four officers insisted that his injuries were either self-inflicted or caused by a legal tackle that took him to the ground when he was first detained.
The trial heard that the suspect’s arrest came 11 months after Detective Constable Stephen Oake was murdered in Crumpsall, Manchester, by terror suspect Kamel Bourgass. Police chiefs briefed the arresting officers that Mr Ahmad was to be considered as dangerous as Bourgass and said they feared he would resist, the jury heard.
The decision by the jury comes after an admission by Scotland Yard in March 2009 that Mr Ahmad was subjected to “a serious, gratuitous and prolonged” attack, and paid him £60,000 in damages after he brought a personal injury case at the High Court. The jury in this latest case were not told about the civil case.
The police officers’ solicitor, Colin Reynolds, said they were looking forward to “getting on with their professional lives” and putting the “unfounded and unsubstantiated allegations” behind them.
Mr Ahmad was never charged in relation to his arrest, but has spent nearly seven years in British prisons awaiting extradition to the US for alleged terrorism offences.
Mr Ahmad has admitted travelling to Bosnia three or four times to fight during the bloody 1992-95 war, but insisted he was not an “al-Qai’da superman”. He made a personal appeal to the Prime Minister to support his bid to be either put on trial in the UK or released. “Mr Cameron, I’ve been in prison almost seven years, yet I have not been charged,” he said. “My plea is simple: will you please support British trials for British citizens?”