The Blog

A Reply to Sadiq Khan

I have read Sadiq Khan MP's article from last week several times and am still dumbfounded by it. His criticism of Babar Ahmad and Syed Talha Ahsan's extradition to the U.S. to face terror charges is wildly misguided.

I have read Sadiq Khan MP's article from last week several times and am still dumbfounded by it. His criticism of Babar Ahmad and Syed Talha Ahsan's extradition to the U.S. to face terror charges is wildly misguided.

Extensive U.S. legal documentation clearly spells out the case Ahmad and Ahsan have to answer (see here, here, here and here). It is worth reading in full, but in summary, they are wanted on charges that include conspiring to kill/injure people abroad and providing material support to terrorists via their website Azzam Publications. Through this, they are accused of providing support to the Chechen mujahideen; the Taliban; and associated extremist groups.

Failing to even mention this, Khan instead says that is 'truly shocking' that the suspects have been in custody since their arrests in August 2004 and July 2006 respectively. In fact, Ahmad and Ahsan could have had their fate resolved almost as soon as they were arrested. The U.S. put in its extradition request for Ahmad in July 2004 (so prior to his arrest). They put in a request for Ahsan in September 2006.

U.K. courts ruled that the U.S. had jurisdiction to try them: Azzam's data was held for a time on a U.S. server, and Ahmad had classified information about a U.S. Naval battalion on a computer disk at his home (suspected of being passed to him by a convicted American terrorist).

Ahmad and Ahsan could have hopped on a plane and proved their innocence. Instead, as is their right, they chose to take their case to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), the court system created by the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). The defendants argued that extradition to the U.S. would breach the ECHR. After years of appeals and delays, their case was dismissed by the ECtHR in September 2012.

Sadiq Khan is a big fan of the ECHR - here he is signing a birthday card for it. Here he is making a speech and giving an interview about how great it is. Yet Khan says that the decade long legal process for Ahmad and Ahsan overseen by both British and European judges saw due process 'jettisoned'. I have no idea what he could possibly mean by this, but it would be interesting to know what about the courts' verdict he felt was flawed.

In perhaps the oddest moment in his odd article, Khan admits to a 'fear' that Ahmad and Ahsan will plead guilty in the U.S. Why a British MP is frightened of suspected terrorists admitting their guilt in our closest ally's courts is anyone's guess. Presumably he thinks the U.S. judicial system is crooked: if so, he should at least have the courage to say it.

For Khan, only a U.K. trial for Ahmad and Ahsan will suffice. This is just plain silly. As the American scholar Ted Bromund has pointed out, 'The idea that Britons, alone in the world, should have the right to be tried exclusively in Britain... is obviously unfair and will never be accepted by any other nation.'

Furthermore, the Crown Prosecution Service has already said that there is 'insufficient evidence' to prosecute Ahmad in the U.K., and that it has not received any evidence from prosecutors against Ahsan - something Khan is either unaware of or knows but chose to ignore. If it is the latter, there is only one conclusion you can draw: Khan wants these men to be freed.

It is worth following through on the consequences of what this would mean for Khan's own Tooting constituency. Ahmad, for example, was an active radicaliser of others (an act that is notoriously hard to prosecute in court, as the recent Abu Qatada furore showed). Another suspected terrorist from Tooting - the Guantanamo Bay detainee Shaker Aamer, who Khan also spends his time campaigning for - credits Ahmad for 'convincing him to actively practice Islam' after the two met in Bosnia in 1994. By December 2001, the U.S. captured Aamer after they assessed him to be fighting alongside al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Then, last year, convicted terrorist Saajid Badat testified in court that he was radicalised by Ahmad and fellow extremists in a group known as the Tooting Circle. Badat said that Ahmad arranged for him to receive 'training in taking up arms' and that 'when we talk about jihad, it meant armed jihad'.

Badat would go on to become a trained al-Qaeda operative dispatched by 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to detonate a 'shoe bomb' on a transatlantic flight in December 2001. He only backed out at the last moment, and in 2005 was convicted in the U.K. for his role in the plot.

Sadiq Khan's article asks us to think of the torment Ahmad's family is suffering because of his detention. In his petty desire to play politics, I doubt he has given any thought to how the family of a loved one blown apart mid-air by one of Ahmad's acolytes would feel. But perhaps he should start.