Socialist Worker

Real victim of bugging scandal is Babar Ahmad

by Matthew Cookson
Issue No. 2087

Arrested on the wishes of the US. Thrown in jail for the past three and a half years. Threatened with extradition on trumped up “terrorism” charges. And now it has been revealed that the police bugged his meetings with his MP.

That’s the story of Babar Ahmad, a south London IT worker, who is the real victim of the bugging scandal that has emerged over the last week.

The media and politicians have whipped themselves into a frenzy after it was revealed that meetings at Woodhill Prison between Sadiq Khan, MP for Tooting and a government whip, and Babar Ahmad had been bugged.

Senior police offices authorised the operation, apparently without the knowledge of then home secretary Jack Straw, who has now launched an inquiry into the case.

The inquiry ought to look at the outrageous way in which Babar Ahmad has been treated, and assess the impact of police surveillance upon those whose only crime is to oppose British foreign policy.

It will not. The MPs are merely concerned that their own private conversations are being listened to. But it is Babar who is suffering in this case.

He was arrested on 5 August 2004 after an extradition request from the US. It accused him of running a website supporting “terrorists” in Chechnya and Afghanistan.

Babar has not been charged with any crime in Britain and the attorney general has given written confirmation that there is insufficient evidence to charge him in this country.

But the British government is still aiding the US in its attempts to extradite Babar to face a trial there – a trial in the country that gave us Guantanamo Bay and secret rendition to torture centres around the world, and punishes people with the death penalty.

A high-profile campaign by Babar’s friends and family has so far frustrated this plan. But his case is now at the European Court of Human Rights, which will make a decision soon.

Sara Ahmad, Babar’s sister, told Socialist Worker, “We are very concerned that private meetings with his MP, at which the strategy to fight his extradition has been discussed, have been bugged.

“We are also concerned that his legal teams’ visits may also have been bugged, and are demanding to know whether the monitoring was at the request of the US. We also want to know whether the recorded discussions were passed on to the other side in preparation for its legal case?

“Our confidence in the Metropolitan Police and the authorities has plummeted.

“We have tried everything – petitions, letters, protests, attempting to get the Independent Police Complaints Commission to investigate. But Babar is still faced with extradition. 

“The case shows Britain’s subservience to the US.”

The bugging scandal has revealed the continuing crackdown on civil liberties under the “war on terror” and New Labour’s increasingly authoritarian regime.

Security sources told the Times newspaper this week that many prisoners in British jails are routinely under covert electronic surveillance. 

Matt Foot, a solicitor in north London, told Socialist Worker, “I was pleased to see the principled reaction of my old boss, Sadiq Khan, to the bugging of his prison visits with Babar Ahmed. 

“Sadiq was a fine lawyer. He has also however been a pretty much establishment Blairite MP – with the exception of his stand over the war on Lebanon – and has been rewarded with a post as a government whip.

“But surely the real point here is, if the security services are bugging his prison visits what hope does that give to the rest of us? 

“Jack Straw’s inquiry needs to take a look into the bugging of lawyers’ visits with their clients, and see who is accountable.”

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Article information

Tue 5 Feb 2008, 18:05 GMT
Issue No. 2087
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