The father of Babar Ahmad, one of five terror suspects extradited to America on Friday night, yesterday made an impassioned plea for his son to be brought back here, saying the injustice of his case would harm Britain’s reputation abroad and shatter community relations.
Ashfaq Ahmad told The Independent on Sunday that the Government had “disgraced themselves” by handing over his son when there was not enough evidence to try him in the UK. Babar Ahmad, 37, appeared in a Connecticut court yesterday with Syed Talha Ahsan, charged with running websites that were allegedly connected to funding terrorism. Both pleaded not guilty and were remanded in custody.
They were flown out of the country at the same time as the radical cleric Abu Hamza, who faced terror charges at a New York court yesterday alongside Khaled al-Fawwaz and Adel Abdul Bary. On Friday, all five had their grounds for appeal denied in the High Court. But unlike Hamza, who has already been convicted here of soliciting to murder and stirring up racial hatred, there was insufficient evidence to bring any charges against and Ahsan or Ahmad in the UK.
Speaking near his home in Tooting, south London, Ashfaq Ahmad, 77, said: “The Government have disgraced themselves by sending him there. They should stand up for British citizens. They can redeem themselves by sending him back here.
“The cases of Babar and Hamza are poles apart and should never have been put together. It’s like someone taking a wallet and someone killing someone. It has done a lot of damage to Babar’s cause and reputation. Everyone just says ‘Hamza and four others’, but they’re very different cases. I believe he’s innocent. Let him go to court here and prove his innocence.”
Babar Ahmad was alleged to have been involved in Azzam.com, a website that supported Osama bin Laden and promoted the fighting of a jihad against the West. The US believes Azzam and other connected websites were also used as a recruitment hub for Islamist extremists.
It emerged last week that Metropolitan Police detectives sent information to FBI agents on Ahmad at a time when the case against the long-imprisoned terror suspect was collapsing because of a lack of evidence. He was first arrested at his home in Tooting in 2003 in connection with an anti-terrorism investigation and by the time he arrived at the police station he had sustained 73 injuries. He was released after three days without charge and was later paid £60,000 in compensation by the Met.
In 2004 he was arrested again, pending extradition to the US. He has been in prison ever since, setting a British record for the longest time spent behind bars without trial .
His father said: “I would like to say to Mr Cameron and his Government that they have done a lot of damage. I now have my doubts about the legal system. You have the last say and it’s your duty to bring your citizen back. He’s a British-born boy who lived all his life here. He has every right to be tried in this country.”
Mr Ahmad, who worked in the civil service for 21 years, said the family were denied the chance to say goodbye to their son after a scheduled prison visit on Friday afternoon was cancelled at the last minute.