Private terror case bid against Babar Ahmad and Syed Ahsan rejected

 

A second bid to bring a private prosecution against two suspected terrorists to keep them in the UK has been rejected by a district judge.

British businessman Karl Watkin, a campaigner against the UK's extradition arrangements with the United States, wanted to prosecute Babar Ahmad and Syed Ahsan for solicitation to murder.

But district judge Howard Riddle, sitting at Westminster Magistrates' Court, refused the application.

He said: "The application is an abuse of the process of the court.

"Bearing in mind all the factors that have been drawn to my attention, I am satisfied that it is not in the interests of justice to issue these proceedings.

"I have a discretion and I exercise it by refusing the application."

Ahmad and Ahsan are in an ongoing legal battle against extradition to the US on terror charges.

Rejecting the legal bid, Mr Riddle, the Chief Magistrate, said: "In this case I am satisfied that the purpose of these proposed proceedings is to stop or delay extradition of the two named proposed defendants to the USA.

"The application is made many years after the events complained of. It appears to have the co-operation and support of the proposed defendants themselves. It comes as almost all other ways of resisting extradition have been exhausted."

He added that the information provided by Mr Watkin did not provide "the essential ingredients of soliciting to murder" and there was "no direct evidence that either Mr Ahmad or Mr Ahsan solicited murder".

"The failure to provide evidence is far from determinative, and in most applications for a summons is not required," he added.

"However here it is relevant to the question as to whether Mr Watkin genuinely intends to prosecute this case."

But Emma Norton, a solicitor for the civil rights group Liberty, said: "The alleged offences are extremely serious and when people in Britain are accused of having committed crimes in this country, they should be tried here.

"Outsourcing justice under our lax extradition laws undermines public trust in British law enforcement."

Earlier this week, Mr Watkin's first bid to bring legal proceedings against the pair under the Terrorism Act 2000 was stopped by the director of public prosecutions (DPP).

Keir Starmer QC said statements provided by Mr Watkin were "very short, lack any meaningful detail and do not provide any real support for a prosecution".

Further documents provided by the Newcastle-based businessman were "probably inadmissible in evidence", Mr Starmer added.

The legal team for Ahmad and Ahsan challenged the decision in the High Court yesterday.

Phillippa Kaufmann QC, appearing for Ahmad and Ahsan, accused the DPP of reaching an "irrational and unlawful" decision.

Ms Kaufmann told two judges Mr Starmer had "failed to make the inquiries required of him in the particular circumstances of the case".

In particular he had failed to obtain from the Metropolitan Police "all the material they had obtained in the course of their investigations" into the activities of Ahmad and Ahsan in 2003-2004.

James Eadie QC, appearing for the Government, argued the DPP had acted within his powers and the legal challenge should be rejected.

Ahmad has been in jail without trial for eight years since 2004 while fighting extradition and Ahsan has been held for six years.

The pair are accused of being involved in a website which encouraged terrorism and which, while operated from London, was hosted in the US.

Neither has been charged with an offence in the UK relating to the website Azzam.com, even though the investigation by US authorities includes evidence seized by the Metropolitan Police.

Sir John Thomas, president of the Queen's Bench Division, said the court hoped to give its ruling tomorrow, when it will also give judgment on legal challenges brought by three other terror suspects, including radical cleric Abu Hamza, who also face extradition to the US.

PA

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