Babar Ahmad’s campaigners say they are “disappointed” with the European Court of Human Rights ruling that he can be extradited to the US to answer alleged terrorism charges and insist Scotland Yard, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and the former Attorney General must all answer questions on how his case “even got to Strasbourg and why Babar even needs to be extradited.”
A spokesman for Free Babar Ahmad told The Muslim News, “There has been a serious abuse of process with the police completely mishandling the evidence seized from Babar’s home by sending it to the US before the CPS could take a view on it.”
Ahmad says that the seven years he’s spent in prison battling the US warrant are the result of a failure by British authorities to charge him.
Shadow Secretary of State for Justice, Sadiq Khan, who is also Ahmad’s constituency MP, called for the Attorney General, Dominic Grieve, to order an inquiry following concerns raised about the handling of evidence by the CPS in the case of the longest detained-without-trial British citizen.
Khan wrote to Grieve asking why his predecessor Lord Peter Goldsmith and the CPS “misled” the public in 2006 when they said there was “insufficient evidence” to prosecute Ahmad in the UK “when they had not even seen all the evidence.”
“Both Babar Ahmad and Syed Talha Ahsan were fighting this extradition because their families, legal representatives and support systems are here in the UK. These are serious allegations, but both of my constituents have said that they are happy to face the music here” Khan said in a statement to The Muslim News.
The 37-year-old from Tooting in south London was arrested on August 5, 2004 on an extradition warrant from the US but has never been charged for any offences.
US prosecutors allege he headed a terrorist “support cell” in London through Azzam.com, a website supporting Chechen and Taliban fighters.
Ahmad was later indicted by a grand jury of US citizens in October 2004. Syed Talah Ahsan, was indicted in 2006 of involvement with Ahmad.
Scotland Yard had arrested Ahmad the previous year, but released him without charge, in a high profile terrorist raid on his house that resulted in the Met having to pay compensation for the injuries sustained on him by its officers.
The Met had repeatedly denied the claims, saying officers had used reasonable force during the arrest.
However, lawyers for the Met’s then Commissioner, Sir Paul Stephenson, admitted that Ahmad had been the victim of gratuitous and sustained violence at his home in Tooting.
His father Ashfaq Ahmad insisted his son was “not a terrorist” and called for a public inquiry into the Extradition Treaty which has already attracted widespread criticism for the relative ease with which Britons can be extradited to the US, compared to the difficulty in extraditing US citizens to the UK.
“He is definitely disappointed but at the same time he is strong and we’ll continue to fight until we get justice,” he said.
Home Secretary, Theresa May, welcomed the ruling saying the Government “will work to ensure that the suspects are handed over to the US authorities as quickly as possible.”
A spokesman for the CPS told The Muslim News that as domestic prosecutors they “saw a small number of documents” gathered as evidence by the Met “in this country which was insufficient for a prosecution here. At the time this decision was made, domestic prosecutors were aware of the nature of the evidence in the possession of the US, but the entirety of the evidence was never subject to review in this country as it formed part of the case built by the US and was held there.”
“The evidence found in the UK and submitted to the CPS by the Metropolitan Police Service, even if it had potentially amounted to an offence of collecting information likely to be useful for a terrorist purpose, amounted to only a small fraction of the criminality alleged against Babar Ahmad by the US.”
However, Richard Haley of Scotland Against Criminalising Communities (SACC) said, “The key evidence upon which the US indictments rely wasn’t obtained by US law-enforcement agencies, but by the Metropolitan Police during a raid on Babar Ahmad’s London home in December 2003.
“According to an affidavit accompanying a domestic US warrant for Ahmad’s arrest, additional evidence was obtained by British law-enforcement agencies from Ahmad’s office at Imperial College and from interviews that British law-enforcement authorities conducted with Imperial College students in 2004.”
Haley said that the response leaves a catalogue of unanswered questions involving the CPS, the Met and MI5: “Was the CPS negligent in its handling of the evidence obtained by the Metropolitan Police? Or did the Met Police or MI5 choose to bypass a legitimate decision by the CPS and appeal instead to the big boys across the Atlantic? Was the investigation run from beginning to end by the US, with the Metropolitan Police and MI5 acting as its gofers? Or did the British authorities take the lead in asking the US to get the job done for them, bypassing the British courts?”
In an interview with the BBC, Ahmad said his case was “outsourced” to the Americans as the material seized during his arrest was sent to the US, rather than being used against him in a trial in the UK.
“Had the Police and CPS put me on trial in 2003, which they have could have done, I would have left prison years ago – regardless of the verdict at trial.
“But due to the inability of the police to pass the case onto the CPS, they outsourced my case to the Americans and asked them to seek my extradition. As a result of that, I have been in this nightmare fighting extradition for the last eight years,” said Ahmad.
Birnberg Peirce and Partners, which is representing Ahsan, said extraditions treaties were created not “for diplomatic relationship” but “so that perpetrators of crime will not go unpunished.
“In each of the cases decided by the European Court what has been emphasised by the Appellants throughout is not that any accused should ‘avoid justice’, but that they should be tried and if appropriate convicted in the country in which the claimed evidence was found, in which the relevant witnesses are present (both for the prosecution and the defence) and in which none of the serious issues raised in the European Court’s extended proceedings would have arisen.”
Secretary General of the Muslim Council Britain, Farooq Murad, said, “It beggars belief that the evidence against a British citizen who is alleged to have committed terrorism-related offences has not been fully reviewed by the authorities in the UK that simply cannot be right.”
He told The Muslim News, “There have been a number of serious allegations made against the handling of terror suspects by the US and the inhumane treatment suffered in US Supermax prisons. It is essential that the Government does everything it can to ensure that its citizens are duly protected, and in the case of Babar Ahmad that justice is done and seen to be done.”
The Strasbourg court had been considering for almost two years whether the conditions at so-called supermax prisons in the US where the men would be detained would violate their rights under Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Executive Director of CagePrisoners, Asim Qureshi, described the ECHR’s ruling that the men would receive fair treatment in a US supermax prison as “an utterly preposterous notion”.
“The extent of problems associated with confinement in American prisons has been well documented by leading NGOs around the world,” said Qureshi.
He added: “Despite the ruling on treatment, there remain more important questions in relation to the manner of the extradition proceedings in the first place. Without the opportunity to challenge any evidence in a prima facie case here in the UK, those facing extradition will be brought before a legal system which has fundamental flaws in the way that it prosecutes national security cases.”