Clarke rules Briton must face terror charges in US

Click to follow
The Independent Online

A British man accused of helping to raise money to support terrorism in Chechnya and Afghanistan is to be extradited to the United States under controversial new measures to speed up the transfer of terrorist suspects.

Charles Clarke, the Home Secretary, ruled yesterday that Babar Ahmad should face trial in America for offences alleged to have been committed in this country.

But the decision was criticised by MPs and members of the Muslim community who fear he could face the death penalty or transfer to Guantanamo Bay. Mr Ahmad's family said they would challenge the extradition in the High Court.

Mr Ahmad, 31, a computer expert from Tooting in south London, was arrested in August 2004 on an extradition warrant from the US, which alleged terrorist fundraising activities between 1998 and 2003. The US alleges that Mr Ahmad, who is being held in Woodhill Prison in Milton Keynes, raised money through internet sites and e-mails. He is said to have encouraged Muslims to wage holy war, or jihad.

Under the terms of the Extradition Act 2003 which came into force last year, the US can request an extradition without having to show a prima facie case that an offence has been committed. The new legislation includes allegations of terrorism as well as other serious criminal offences and affects extradition relations between European countries and some Commonwealth countries, including Australia and Canada.

Sir Menzies Campbell, the Liberal Democrats' foreign affairs spokesman, said: "This man's extradition is based on a one-sided US-UK treaty which the US Senate has so far refused to ratify. It is concerning that British citizens have less constitutional protection than their American counterparts." Mr Ahmad's wife, Maryam, said: "Not just Babar, but no one should be sent to the United States because of their total disregard for human rights."

His MP, Sadiq Khan, said that Mr Ahmad should be tried in the UK. "The allegations are that Babar Ahmad committed these criminal offences while in the UK, while a British citizen, and while in London," he told BBC Radio 4.

Mr Ahmad's family confirmed that they would be appealing against both the Home Secretary's decision and the original ruling in favour of extradition at Bow Street magistrates' court earlier this year. "This is clearly a political case. If there was anything to charge him with he would have been charged in this country," Mrs Ahmad said.

A spokeswoman for the Home Office said: "The Government has received assurances from the United States that he will not face the death penalty."

But she conceded that his possible transfer to Guantanamo Bay was a matter for the US authorities.