Socialist Worker

Babar Ahmad 'could face Guantanamo or worse'

Issue No. 1941

Babar Ahmad, the south London IT worker threatened with extradition to the US on 'terrorism' charges, could face indefinite military detention if the extradition goes ahead, according to his lawyers.

The claim was made by Thomas Loflin, a US civil rights lawyer called in by Babar's defence team as an expert witness at his extradition hearing in London last week.

Loflin told the court that there was a 'real risk' that Babar could face 'Guantanamo or worse' if he was delivered over to US authorities.

The prosecution reacted to Loflin's testimony by asking for the hearing to be adjourned while they considered how best to respond to it.

'We do not concede at this juncture that a transfer to military jurisdiction would constitute a flagrant denial [of Babar's rights], but we do accept that it is strongly arguable,' said John Hardy, representing the US government.

The judge, Timothy Workman, granted the request for an adjournment. Babar's hearing will now resume on Monday 18 April at 10am in Bow Street magistrates court, central London.

In his evidence, Loflin cited previous cases where people indicted in civilian courts had been declared 'enemy combatants' and whisked away into military custody, often at the dead of night without their lawyers being informed.

Under US laws brought in after 9/11, those suspected of terrorism offences can be transferred to military custody on the orders of President Bush.

They can then be detained indefinitely, tried by military commission with no right of appeal, and even subjected to the death penalty. Secret evidence, including evidence obtained by torture, can be used against them.

Terrorism suspects can also have 'special administrative measures' placed upon them, such as indefinite solitary confinement and restrictions on their access to lawyers.

Moreover, military detainees need not even be held on US soil. They can be shipped off to Guantanamo Bay, or face 'extraordinary rendition' to secret torture camps in Egypt, Morocco, Syria and Jordan.

Prosecution lawyers representing the US government argued that it would be illegal to transfer an extradicted suspect to military jurisdiction. 'I think President Bush would disagree,' replied Loflin.

'Nowhere in this treaty does it say that once a person is extradited he must be detained under civilian judicial authority or that the trial will have to be in a civilian court,' he added.

For more on the US's secret 'extraordinary renditions' programme, read 'Outsouring Torture' by Jane Mayer in the 14 February issue of The New Yorker, available online

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Sat 5 Mar 2005, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1941
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