Dead Men Left

Monday, December 06, 2004

Babar Ahmad: gross injustice

Attended this meeting down in Stockwell a few weeks back:

RESPECT IN Lambeth and Southwark, south London, hosted a meeting on civil liberties last week. Around 70 people attended, including young Muslims from Stockwell mosque.

Babar Ahmad’s wife gave a detailed and moving presentation on her husband’s case. He faces extradition to the US under one of home secretary David Blunkett’s new laws.

There was a real sense that different groups with a common opposition to war and imperialism are beginning to forge important links. We must do everything we can to consolidate these links.

Babar Ahmad should be a household name, a by-word for injustice. His wife's presentation drove home the point about just how slender the evidence against him is. A critical point of the extradition case hangs on the discovery of a 1973 tourist brochur in Ahmad's home with a picture of the Empire State Building on the front. From this, the prosecution has concluded that - of course! - Ahmad was involved in a plot to attack the Empire State Building. (In fact, the brochure is a souvenir from a visit his father, a now-retired civil servant, made to New York in the seventies.) When originally arrested in December 2003, following a brutal dawn raid, Ahmad was held for six days under the new Terrorism Act. He was released without charge, despite the beatings the police inflicted during that time. (Daniel Brett has the evidence here; I warn you, it's not pleasant. Dan also has some links on the case well worth checking out.) After lodging a complaint with the Independent Police Complaints Commission, Ahmad was re-arrested and held pending extradition hearings. The US has accused him of being alternately al-Qaida's naval operations commander, or their European Quartermaster. The Crown Prosecution Service, meanwhile, had rejected Ahmad's claims that he was in any way badly treated by the police, despite a surgeon's report stating that, "There is clearly unequivocal evidence that he was subjected to a harrowing physical and psychological assault by police officers..." The standard of proof required in extradition hearings is far below that in conventional criminal proceedings, and if sent to the US, Babar Ahmad faces confinement in Guantanamo Bay.

The al-Qaida charges, needless to say, are ludicrous: the police had six long days to turn up any evidence, and that they failed to do so speaks volumes - as do, frankly, the concern and disbelief of his wife and family, as well as the friends and neighbours who have known Babar for years. The whole "anti-terror" operation stinks; an innocent man is threatened with indefinite detention for having done little more than stood up for basic justice. Check out Free Babar Ahmad for details on getting involved in the campaign; they're urging concerned individuals to lobby their MPs at present.