Businessman seeks private trial for UK terror suspects
A British businessman plans to take a private terrorism prosecution against two suspects, his lawyers announced today.
In an extraordinary development, Karl Watkin announced that he wants to prosecute Babar Ahmad, 37, and Syed Talha Ahsan, 33 – who along with Abu Hamza face extradition to the United States – under the Terrorism Act 2000 and his lawyers have written to the Director of Public Prosecutions for consent.
They have also applied to Westminster Magistrates Court for a summons to try them for supporting terrorist activity, contrary to the Offences Against the Person Act.
Both British men have been held in jail for more than six years fighting extradition to America and are awaiting a decision from the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights.
Mr Watkin, an entrepreneur from the North East who lists “making a difference” amongst his interests has campaigned against the Extradition Act 2003 since its inception and is a vocal supporter of Gary McKinnon, an Asperger’s Syndrome sufferer who has been accused of hacking into American military computers.
The businessman claimed today that he had obtained evidence which he believes establishes that Mr Ahmad and Mr Ahsan were involved in a group of websites called azzam.com, which are said to have played a key role in inciting young Muslims in the west to commit acts of terrorism, detailed how to train and encouraged financial contributions.
Their supporters – 149,000 of whom have signed a petition - insist that the websites were allegedly run in London and consequently any prosecution should be UK based but the Americans are seeking extradition on the grounds the website host company was in Connecticut.
“Our extradition agreement with the United States is the human rights issue of the day. It has abolished all our elementary civil liberties such as habeas corpus, the presumption of innocence and above all the duty of the government to protect its citizens. The last six years have been a terrible ordeal for both Talha and his family. We have been punished even though no-one has been found guilty of any crime,” his brother Hamja Ahsan told The Independent today.
Mr Watkin continued: “I don’t know whether these men are totally innocent or as guilty as hell - that’s for a court to determine with the benefit of all the evidence - but as Britons living and working here, having potentially committed serious crimes here, there is no question they should be tried here. The public interest demands it. We do not need to outsource our criminal justice system to America.”
He said he was stepping in where the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) had failed to act.
“Between them they’ve spent 14 years in British jails yet have not been charged with breaking any British law – that’s crazy. Justice delayed is justice denied.”
He added: “In the end, I hope this will help encourage extradition law reform to reintroduce the principle of British trials over conduct in Britain, and thereby restore public confidence in our extradition system. But at the very least, this private prosecution will help put to an end a saga which has become a stain on this country’s long-held principles of fairness and justice.”
Mr Watkin's solicitors, Ward Hadaway, have sought to commence the first of two potential prosecutions – under s.4 the Offenses Against the Person Act 1861 – by sending the relevant documents to Westminster Magistrates Court.
The second prosecution, under the Terrorism Act 2000, requires the consent of the DPP, and potentially the Attorney General and the solicitors said they had written to his office to seek consent to combine both offences under one prosecution.
Last night the CPS said it had yet to receive any request.
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