Babar Ahmad police officers not guilty of assault
- 3 June 2011
- From the section UK
Four police officers accused of beating up a terror suspect have all been found not guilty at Southwark Crown Court.
A jury acquitted Pc Roderick James-Bowen, 40, Pc Mark Jones, 43, Pc Nigel Cowley, 34, and Det Con John Donohue, 37, of assaulting Babar Ahmad.
Mr Ahmad, 37, was arrested at his home in Tooting, south London, in December 2003 on suspicion of leading a group which supported al-Qaeda.
Mr Ahmad was never charged in relation to his arrest but is in custody.
He is awaiting extradition to the US for alleged terrorism offences.
Mr Ahmad said he feared he would die in the early morning Metropolitan Police raid.
But jurors rejected claims that the officers attacked him, taking less than an hour to reach their decision.
The BBC understands some members of the jury later asked to meet the officers to shake their hands, correspondent Ben Ando reported.
Speaking after the verdicts, the officers' solicitor Colin Reynolds said secret recordings - which emerged in evidence - from a listening device planted in Mr Ahmad's home corroborated his clients' accounts.
"It was only weeks before this trial commenced that the prosecution then disclosed that a listening device had been planted in the home address of Babar Ahmad some time before his arrest in December 2003," he said.
"Many hours were spent analysing what could be heard as a result of that probe before and during the trial and that evidence proved the account originally given by these officers was correct and specific details of the complaint made by Mr Ahmad were not present."
Asked why the Met paid out £60,000 to Mr Ahmad in a civil case when the force admitted liability, he said: "That's a matter for the Commissioner and his lawyers."
Mr Reynolds also spoke of the men's relief at the verdicts and said they were "looking forward to getting on with their professional lives".
"The officers look forward to returning to work and... serving the public within the MPS and they are hoping that they will be able to put these unfounded and unsubstantiated allegations behind them now."
After the not guilty verdicts were returned, Judge Geoffrey Rivlin QC said he hoped what he described as Mr Ahmad's "ordeal" would come to an end as quickly as possible, either by his extradition to the US or his release.
He said Mr Ahmad had been detained in the UK for a number of years and it was a matter of concern.
Mr Ahmad claims the officers, then all constables in the Met's Territorial Support Group (TSG), beat him repeatedly, swore at him, mocked his Islamic faith and humiliated him by touching his genitals in an assault that began at his house and continued in a police van and at a police station.
He alleged that one officer grabbed his throat and cut off his breathing.
Mr Ahmad told the court: "He kept squeezing to the point where I thought, 'This guy is going to kill me. He wants to kill me. I am going to die in the back of this van'."
But the officers said his injuries were either self-inflicted or caused by a legal tackle that took him to the ground when he was first detained.
Pc James-Bowen told the court he had a "ferocious" struggle with martial arts expert Mr Ahmad in which he used "significant force", but rejected accusations that he and his colleagues beat him up.
The four officers involved in the raid had been told by senior officers to arrest Mr Ahmad.
The four-week trial heard that the suspect's arrest came 11 months after DC Stephen Oake was murdered in Crumpsall, Manchester, by terror suspect Kamel Bourgass.
Police chiefs briefed the arresting officers that Mr Ahmad was to be considered as dangerous as Bourgass and said they feared he would resist, the jury heard.
Pc Jones told the court he and the other officers in his unit were told by their sergeant before the operation that the suspect had been trained by al-Qaeda in armed and unarmed combat.
Mr Ahmad was believed to be the leader of an al-Qaeda-linked cell that acted as a conduit to terrorism overseas, providing recruits and logistical support.
In evidence during the trial, Mr Ahmad confirmed that he travelled to Bosnia three or four times to fight during the 1992/95 war, but insisted he was not an "al-Qaeda superman".
The Metropolitan Police Authority is set to publish an investigation into the incident.
In a statement, the Met Police said the court had heard evidence that did not support Mr Ahmad's account of events following his arrest.
Acting Commander Carl Bussey, head of the Met's Directorate of Professional Standards, said: "The issues that have arisen out of the arrest have now been ongoing for a long time and undoubtedly this will have been a difficult seven years for all involved.
"Given the result I will now ensure a misconduct review is conducted immediately so that the officers can be given a decision as soon as possible and this matter finally brought to a conclusion."
The Metropolitan Police later said three of the officers would remain on restricted duties pending a decision on whether they should face a misconduct hearing.
The fourth officer, Pc Mark Jones, is currently suspended on an unrelated matter.
Mr Ahmad's lawyer, Fiona Murphy, said: "The criminal proceedings have taken their course and the jury has returned its verdict".
"We now call upon the IPCC to put its abject failures in relation to this case to one side and to give proper consideration to the misconduct aspects."