Babar Ahmad appeals for trial to be held in UK

The BBC went to the High Court for the right to interview Babar Ahmad

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A British terrorism suspect, held for a record seven years without trial, has appealed to be prosecuted in the UK.

In an exclusive interview with the BBC, Babar Ahmad accused the police and prosecutors of mishandling his case.

Mr Ahmad has been battling against extradition to the United States. He will find out next Tuesday if he will be sent to America.

The Metropolitan Police and Crown Prosecution Service have denied impropriety.

The unprecedented interview in the maximum security Long Lartin Prison came after the BBC challenged a government ban on filming Mr Ahmad.

The High Court ruled that there was an overwhelming public interest in hearing Mr Ahmad discuss his case, because of his unique situation.

"I have been in prison now for nearly eight years without trial," Mr Ahmad said.

"I am facing extradition to the US to spend the rest of my life in solitary confinement. I have never been questioned about the allegations against me.

"I do not hold the Americans responsible for anything that has happened to me, but I think it is fair to say that I am fighting for my life - and I am running out of time."

The 37-year-old from Tooting in south London was arrested in 2004 on an extradition warrant from the United States.

US prosecutors say he headed a terrorist "support cell" in London through a website called Azzam.com. He faces life imprisonment if convicted.

Scotland Yard had arrested Mr Ahmad the previous year, but released him without charge.

In his BBC interview, he says that the seven years he has spent in prison battling the US warrant are the result of a failure by British authorities to charge him.

Evidence 'not considered'

He claims material seized during his arrest was sent to the United States, rather than being used against him in a trial in the UK.

"Had the Police and CPS put me on trial in 2003, which they have could have done, I would have left prison years ago - regardless of the verdict at trial.

"But due to the inability of the police to pass the case onto the CPS, they outsourced my case to the Americans and asked them to seek my extradition. As a result of that, I have been in this nightmare fighting extradition for the last eight years."

Watch Babar Ahmad's Newsnight interview in full. Reporter: Dominic Casciani, Producer: Steve Swann

Mr Ahmad says his lawyers have lobbied the CPS to bring charges in this country, saying that other suspected terrorists have been prosecuted here for comparable offences.

Some of these suspects have been prosecuted for having material that originated from the website he is alleged to have run.

"They can resolve this now by bringing charges against me tomorrow. They have all of the material. I would urge the director of public prosecutions to consider this file."

His case has been with the European Court of Human Rights and a judgement has been repeatedly delayed because of complicating factors.

Next Tuesday, the court will rule on Mr Ahmad's extradition, along with other terrorism suspects wanted by the United States.

Key allegations

Mr Ahmad's alleged website played a key role in the late 1990s onwards in creating and providing support for Mujahideen fighters across the world.

Although he is not charged with direct involvement or membership of al-Qaeda, the US says he supported Chechen fighters, the Taliban and also received a classified US Naval document.

Mr Ahmad refused to say whether he ran the mujahideen website, saying he had a right to clear his name in a trial in the UK.

THE US ALLEGATIONS

  • Conspiracy to provide material support to the Taliban and Chechen mujahideen
  • Providing material support to terrorists
  • Conspiracy to kill
  • Money laundering

But he added: "I absolutely reject any allegation that I supported terrorism in any way, in any place, whether in Afghanistan, Chechnya or any other part of the world. I believe terrorism to be wrong and I believe the targeting and killing of innocent people to be wrong."

In a statement, Scotland Yard said: "The Metropolitan Police Service carried out their investigation strictly in accordance with UK law. This process involved close liaison with the Crown Prosecution Service. We completely reject any suggestion of impropriety.

"All extradition requests made to the United Kingdom are subject to the Extradition Act and any other relevant legislation. The CPS acts as the representative of the requesting judicial authority in extradition proceedings."

More than 140,000 people signed an official government e-petition last year supporting his campaign against extradition, making his case one of only 10 petitions to have garnered enough support for a House of Commons' debate.

The CPS confirmed to the BBC that it has only seen "a small number of documents gathered as evidence by the police in this country" and those had been insufficient for a prosecution.

"At the time this decision was made, domestic prosecutors were aware of the nature of the evidence in the possession of the US, but the entirety of the evidence was never subject to review in this country as it formed part of the case built by the US and was held there."

Mr Ahmad's lawyers say that the publicly available US papers show that the American charges are based on British evidence.

"This case has been heard extensively throughout the UK courts who have held that the US authorities have jurisdiction and are entitled to seek Mr Ahmad's extradition. Mr Ahmad has appealed those decisions and is now awaiting the decision of the European Court of Human Rights."

You can find out more about this story and watch the full interview on Newsnight on BBC Two at 2230BST on Thursday 5 April 2012 , then afterwards on the BBC iPlayer.

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