‘Babar is US scapegoat’
Tooting terror suspect Babar Ahmad was told yesterday there is no legal way to stop him being sent for trial in America even though no evidence has been tested and his legal rights could be stripped from him.
A large crowd gathered outside Bow Street Magistrates' Court, chanting slogans in support of Ahmad and claiming his innocence.
Ahmad is accused of raising money for terrorist causes, supporting the Taliban and encouraging Muslims to commit terrorist acts.
But a 2003 pact between Britain and the US means the American Government did not have to offer evidence to back up its claims against the British citizen.
Ahmad's extradition hearing is the first legal test of that controversial new treaty and his supporters argue if there was evidence to convict him he should be tried in Britain.
He was arrested by British police in 2003, but was released without charge because of insufficient evidence.
Now the Home Secretary has 60 days to decide whether to fly Ahmad to the States, where his family fears his human rights could be eroded and a fair trial impossible.
Judge Timothy Workman, while ruling he could not prevent the extradition, raised grave concerns about the "difficult and troubling case".
Ahmad's supporters claimed US President George W Bush might suddenly decide he should be tried by a military tribunal and face the death penalty or Guantanamo Bay.
But Judge Workman said while Ahmad did meet the criteria for a presidential order and face "inhuman and degrading" treatment, the court had received a "categorical assurance" that it would not happen and even Bush would be bound by it. But, qualifying, he said the threat was "almost" entirely removed.
The judge said his greatest concern was that "special administrative measures" could be applied. This would mean Ahmad being kept in solitary confinement, restrictions put on his correspondence and monitoring of contact with lawyers.
The US Government did not deny this but, because the monitoring would not "reach the eyes and ears of those prosecuting", Judge Workman ruled the trial could be fair. He predicted the issues would be thrashed out again in a High Court appeal.
Babar Ahmad's solicitor, Muddassar Arani, said she hoped for a "more robust" appeal judge, adding: "It is a shame these decisions made in the courts are very political in their nature. Babar has been made a scapegoat."
Ahmad's father, Ashfaq Ahmad, said: "Babar is strong and he has committed no crime. I pray to Allah, insh'Allah, that we will win. We all know what sort of treatment minorities get in America. They are abusers of human rights."
After the hearing, Iqbal Sacranie, secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, said: "We call on the Home Secretary to renegotiate the Extradition Treaty 2003, so that it better protects our citizens from this manifest injustice. This draconian treaty has reduced the judiciary in the UK to a rubber stamping instrument in reference to allegations that do not require to be proved before it. This is a clear violation of all civilised norms of justice."