Detained without charge in the ‘war on terror’
Any news updates on this case will be listed at the foot of this item
Babar Ahmad, a 31-year-old computer expert from Tooting, south London, was arrested In December 2003 by Anti-Terrorist Police who broke into his house in a pre-dawn raid. He was then brutally assaulted in front of his wife. He sustained over 50 injuries to his body, two of which were life-threatening. During this attack Babar was placed in the prayer position and asked, “Where is your God now?”
He was however released without charge following the 2003 arrest – a move his supporters say proved his innocence. Babar was again arrested under anti-terror laws in August 2004 and charged with terror crimes by a US court two months later. He stood accused of running websites supporting terrorism and urging Muslims to fight a holy war.
In May 2005, a District Court judge ruled that he could be extradited and the case was sent to the home secretary for final approval.
The order comes under UK legislation designed to speed up the extradition of suspected terrorists, which came into force in January 2004. Under the act there is no requirement for US authorities to represent a prima facie case – although UK authorities must do so in seeking extraditions from the US.
Following his 2003 arrest Babar filed a formal complaint that he had been subjected to horrific physical, sexual and religious abuse by the arresting police officers. An IPCC supervised investigation later dismissed his complaint and even “commended” one of these officers for his “great bravery” in arresting him.
In March 2009 the Metropolitan Police finally admitted in the Royal Courts of Justice in London that they did indeed carry out the Islamophobic and brutal assault on Babar Ahmad in December 2003. Moreover, they paid Babar £60,000 compensation for damages. See a full account here >
The High Court heard that Ahmad was subjected to “serious gratuitous prolonged unjustified violence” and “religious abuse” after his arrest.
The court was told that after beating him in the bedroom, stamping on his feet, and swearing at him, the officers forced him to his knees and mocked him, “Where is your god now?”
Phillippa Kaufmann, counsel for Ahmad, told the High Court that he had been dragged by handcuffs, causing acute pain, and while in the back of a police vehicle subjected to neck holds, which made him feel like he was dying.
As his counsel said, his treatment at the hands of the officers was intended to humiliate and debase him and make him fear for his life.
Ahmad is clearly suspected by the British government of involvement in the most serious acts of terrorism. It only follows that he should be put on trial and given his day in court. There is no need for him to be extradited to the US when the offence for which he stands accused is alleged to have been committed in Britain, as with the case against Gary McKinnon.
Indeed, the Court of Appeal came to the same conclusion in a case earlier this year (2010) of two white supremacists based in Yorkshire who ran neo-Nazi websites hosted on computer servers in California. The judges held that since the collation, typing, editing, uploading, and maintaining of the website content took place in the UK, and only a minor technical procedure took place in the US, then the UK, and not the US, was the most appropriate forum for their trial.
The essential facts of Ahmad’s case cannot be distinguished from this case, other than of course, that he is a Muslim.
Babar Ahmad’s persecution affects us all. Huge issues are raised by the case.
If Babar Ahmad can be extradited because a US server was used to host a website he used, what does that mean for other people who use US-based web services like Facebook? Tens of millions of individuals and businesses in Europe use these services. Do we all have to take care to comply with US law?
Long-term solitary confinement is commonplace in the US prison system. Muslims convicted of “terrorism” are particularly at risk, but tens of thousands of other prisoners are also subjected to this abuse.
Long-term solitary confinement is torture. It lies outside accepted norms of prisoner treatment in Europe. No one should be extradited to the US if there is any risk that they will be tortured in this way.
The evidence-free Extradition Act 2003 is easily exploited by police to allow “jurisdiction shopping” – police can engineer a prosecution in whatever country they think provides the strongest chance of conviction. This is easily done in terrorism cases, where law-enforcement and intelligence agencies work closely together around the world. But it could be done in other cases too.
Extradition to the US could become rapid and routine. The cases of Babar Ahmad, Talha Ahsan and others are working their way very slowly through the courts. But if the extradition of these people is approved, other cases could proceed much more rapidly.
You could be whisked across the Atlantic, with no opportunity to object, to answer for “crimes” you never knew you had committed. Extradition within Europe, even on minor charges, is becoming routine. Extradition to the US could also become routine. But US justice and penal systems are very different from ours, and the US is hopelessly distant for friends and families who want to provide support.
Babar is the longest detained-without-charge British detainee held as part of the global ‘war on terror’.
The Homecoming of Babar Ahmad and Talha Ahsan
17 July 2014
Babar Ahmad’s principled stand shames the IPCC
5 June 2011