Help to free Talha Ahsan

A travesty of justice

In November 2011 the Crown Prosecution Service admitted for the first time that material collected by the Metropolitan Police, that it should have received in order to make a decision on Talha Ahsan's case, had been sent directly to the US without ever having been first reviewed by them. Until this announcement was made, the family of Talha Ahsan and his legal team automatically assumed that the CPS had every piece of material collected by the Metropolitan Police before them. The CPS later admitted in August 2012, that with respect to Talha Ahsan, "there has been no investigation in the UK and no evidence has ever been submitted to the CPS team of prosecutors who look at alleged offences in this country."

The Independent newspaper revealed on the 5th October 2012 that Metropolitan Police detectives agreed to nine separate requests from FBI agents to provide information on Babar Ahmad (co-defendant of Talha Ahsan) at a time when the case against the individual was collapsing in the UK because of a lack of evidence possessed by the CPS.

Court documents later discovered in the United States revealed how senior detectives from the Metropolitan Police regularly carried out searches and enquiries on behalf of the FBI under mutual legal assistance laws - which allow foreign governments to ask British police forces to conduct investigations on their behalf. The material collected forms part of a dossier of evidence that was handed to the American authorities but it was never forwarded to the CPS.

The documents included material related to a court trial of Hassan Abu-Jihaad, a US Navy sailor said to have been in email contact with Azzam Publications.

The trial included testimony from Detective Sergeant Ian Vickers, a Metropolitan Police officer who was involved in the British investigation of Babar Ahmad during 2003 and 2004. He testified that he had been in charge of handling requests from the FBI for help in their investigation of Babar Ahmad, and that he had overseen the transfer to the US of various items, including two floppy disks found on a desk in Babar Ahmad's house.

This testimony confirms the suspicions that material obtained in the UK was sent straight to the US without being passed to the CPS, even though a British investigation into Babar Ahmad was underway at the time.

DS Vickers told the US court that he first learned of the FBI's interest in Babar Ahmad in late December 2003, a few weeks after his arrest on the 2nd December 2003. However, his testimony made no mention of a surveillance bug installed by MI5 in Babar Ahmad's house that was functioning that same day. As of October 2012, nothing is known about any sharing of information between Britain and the US that may have occurred through the involvement of MI5 in the case.

On the 6th October 2012, after Babar Ahmad and Talha Ahsan had been extradited, the Daily Mail published statements from Guantanamo Bay detainee Shaker Aamer that had only been declassified by the US authorities in September 2012. Shaker Aamer stated that he was tortured by US personnel in the presence of British officials. The same statements provide details of further episodes of torture, and evidence that British officials knew it was occurring. Shaker Aamer also says that in late 2003 he was questioned by an MI5 or MI6 officer about Babar Ahmad. This points to the possibility that there exists as yet undisclosed evidence against Babar Ahmad, and possibly Talha Ahsan, that was obtained through the torture of their former correspondents.

The manner in which the Metropolitan Police submitted material to the US authorities whilst refusing to submit the same material to the CPS in order to enable the case to be properly examined in the UK hints that they were under a gag order by the US. British police forces are accountable to the public, the CPS, and Government ministers, which implies that the imposition of a gag order by a foreign country will make a police force unaccountable, and is therefore illegal to accept under British law. Regardless of whether or not a gag order was imposed by the US, the act of a British police force submitting material they have collected during an investigation to American authorities whilst withholding the same material from the CPS is nothing short of a complete travesty of justice.

Had all the material collected by the Metropolitan Police been provided to the CPS, then there almost certainly would have been sufficient evidence to place both Babar Ahmad and Talha Ahsan on trial in Britain.

The private prosecution

On the 6th September 2012, the BBC reported that a British businessman Karl Watkin had instructed his solicitors to commence a private prosecution against Babar Ahmad and Talha Ahsan. They had also written to Keir Starmer QC, the Director of Public Prosecutions, requesting permission for a private prosecution under terrorism laws. In speaking to the BBC, Watkin commented: "I don't know whether these men are totally innocent or as guilty as hell - that's for a court to determine with the benefit of all the evidence. But as Britons living and working here, having potentially committed serious crimes here, there is no question, they should be tried here. The public interest demands it. We do not need to outsource our criminal justice system to America. Between them they've spent 14 years in British jails yet have not been charged with breaking any British law - that's crazy. Justice delayed is justice denied. So I want to see Ahmad and Ahsan in the dock."

Anyone can commence a private prosecution if they can prove that it is in the public interest to do so. The DPP has the power to intervene to take on the case or to stop it. It all depends on whether the prosecution can be shown to be in the public interest or not.

Unfortunately, Keir Starmer threw out the case on the 2nd October 2012 on the basis that Mr Watkin's application - including statements from both Talha Ahsan and Babar Ahmad - was "very short, lack any meaningful detail and do not provide any real support for a prosecution."

In 2011 over 149,000 members of the British public signed an e-petition calling for Babar Ahmad to be tried in the UK. It is essential that we once again demonstrate that this is a matter of deep public concern - there is public interest in domestic prosecutions for British citizens accused of (mis)conduct that took place in the UK.

Continue Reading - The extradition

Print  Print