US Vs Babar: Part 3
The Trial of Babar Ahmad: Remand and Review Hearing
Thursday 24th March 2005
“My words fly up, my thoughts remain below: Words without thoughts never to heaven go.”
Hamlet , William Shakespeare
Two days before the hearing commenced, Babar Ahmad was moved unexpectedly to Belmarsh Prison. Despite being a Category A, high security prison like Woodhill, the prisoners have much less privileges here; whether or not they have been convicted. They are locked up in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day unlike Woodhill where prisoners can interact with each other for several hours a day. They are also only allowed two visits a week, despite the entitlement of un-convicted prisoners to have more visits. They are also not allowed many books and no tapes or cds to nurture their minds whilst in solitary confinement. Prisoners are also subjected to more humiliating and regular strip searches. This is all apart from the known antagonistic attitudes of the prison guards towards Muslims to make life particularly miserable for them. Many people in the past have raised concerns about the conditions at Belmarsh. With Babar’s transfer, some of the harsh realities of Belmarsh are already beginning to come to light. It is no wonder that many of the prisoners have been driven to madness. Belmarsh, Britain’s Guantanamo Bay, is allowed to exist and operate, with Tony Blair’s approval, in the capital city of London.
Babar attended the court hearing by video-link from prison. The hearing was due to begin at 2.00 p.m. However it was delayed by half an hour as Belmarsh prison guards had brought over the wrong inmate!
John Hardy, representing the United States’ Government, began by stating that he was now awaiting a written assurance from the US to confirm that Babar would not be subject to Military Order Number One if extradited to the US. The Defence counsel, Paul Hines, requested that the Prosecution be more specific as to when exactly they would provide the Defence with more details of this assurance. After much insistence, John Hardy revealed that the outline of the text for the written assurance had been agreed, but the exact text was not ready.
Throughout the hearing the Prosecution remained ‘tight lipped’ about who in fact would be signing the assurance. The Defence then argued that the text of the assurance be served to them as soon as possible so that its validity could be checked with expert witnesses in the US. The Prosecution stated that they could not provide an exact date as they were dealing with an entirely new situation, which had never arisen before. This is not entirely true, as the Defence then pointed out, as the papers of the arguments they would be putting forward were served in January 2005 and therefore the Prosecution have been aware since then about Military Order One. Exchanges between Judge Timothy Workman and the Prosecution ended on them ‘mutually agreeing’ that the only real possibility of a valid assurance was from one person, referring to the President himself. The Defence then stated that once revealed, they would like to examine the person giving the assurance.
John Hardy went on to say that the assurance would be from the Department of State and would bind all other departments. Exactly what that means and exactly who gives the assurance remains a mystery. Whether or not they would keep to the assurance is another matter altogether.
It was agreed that within fourteen days the text of the assurance be served to the Defence team and the Extradition Hearing would then continue on Monday 18 th April 2005, 10 am and if needed it would go onto the 20 th April 2005.
It seems strange that the Prosecution did not choose or find an expert witness to be cross-examined in support of the U.S’s treatment of alleged terror suspects. Perhaps because no one can really argue against the fact that the U.S grossly abuses human and civil rights regardless of Geneva conventions or any other law.
As for the written assurance, many questions are raised as to who is giving it. Even if the President of the U.S signed it, what is there to say he cannot go back on his word? After all, he is the man at the top. He can change his mind when he wants and how he wants; and justify it in his own terms. Moreover, will the written assurance bind all future U.S governments from transferring Babar to military custody?
Many questions remain unanswered and it is as though a mockery is being made of one man’s life. How can this written assurance be trusted? It is of no relevance what it says or who signs it. Moreover, what about all the other issues like Muslims being denied a fair trial in the U.S and use of evidence obtained under torture?
The biggest question is what about our own British Government? How much further will they sell out their own citizens? Tony Blair’s government continues to hack away at the very civil liberties we fought to achieve over centuries. If Babar is allowed to be extradited to the U.S, without a chance to defend the allegations in a British Court, based on a piece of paper from a government known for lying and breaking its promises, the British people can no longer feel safe and enjoy the freedom we are all entitled to.
24 th March 2005