Terror boss loses conviction appeal

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The Independent Online

Judges today rejected an appeal by the man who became the first person to be convicted in the UK of directing terrorism.

Rangzieb Ahmed, 34, from Manchester, alleged that the UK was complicit in his torture in Pakistan.



His conviction was declared safe by Lord Justice Hughes, Mr Justice Owen and Mrs Justice Thirlwall at the Court of Appeal in London.



During a hearing last year, his QC told the judges that he was unlawfully detained while in Pakistan, beaten and had fingernails removed with pliers during torture sessions.



Ahmed was jailed for life with a minimum term of 10 years in December 2008.



Manchester Crown Court heard during his trial that he headed a three-man al-Qa'ida service cell which was preparing to commit mass murder.



The Rochdale-born Muslim was also found guilty of al-Qa'ida membership, along with his associate, Manchester taxi driver Habib Ahmed.



Lancashire-born Habib Ahmed, who was sentenced to a total of 10 years in prison - nine for being a member of the terror group and an additional one year for possessing a document for terror-related purposes - also had his conviction appeal dismissed.



During the appeal hearing last year Rangzieb Ahmed's QC, Joel Bennathan, claimed that the UK was "complicit" in acts of torture.



He argued that the trial judge should have halted the proceedings against him as an abuse of process.



Rejecting Rangzieb Ahmed's appeal today, Lord Justice Hughes said the result of a pre-trial inquiry by the trial judge "was that torture had not been demonstrated to have occurred, and had been demonstrated not to have occurred before the sole occasion when Rangzieb said he had been seen by British officers".



He found that even if it had occurred later, it had no direct or indirect impact on the trial.



Lord Justice Hughes said the trial judge had "expressly rejected the suggestion of outsourcing torture by British authorities".



The trial judge had found "simply no evidence that they had assisted or encouraged the Pakistani detainers to detain him unlawfully or to ill-treat him in any way, whether amounting to torture or not".



The appeal judges ruled that the trial judge "was right to refuse to stay the prosecution against Rangzieb".



Lord Justice Hughes said: "Torture is wrong. If it had occurred there could be no excuse for it, not even if Rangzieb was a suspected terrorist who might kill people.



"But the question was not whether it is wrong, but what consequences flow from it if it occurred."



The judge said Mr Bennathan had "rightly accepted before us that it is not, and cannot be, the law that every act of torture has the consequence that the tortured person becomes immune from prosecution in every country and for all time, whatever crime he may commit.



"He contended that there must be a connection between the torture and the prosecution.



"The issue is the nature of the connection."



He said the court was "satisfied that the necessary connection exists where the torture has an impact on the trial, but not otherwise".



Lord Justice Hughes added: "Even if there had been torture whilst Rangzieb was in Pakistan, it had no bearing on the trial and there was no reason why the question of whether or not he was guilty of an antecedent crime in England should not be decided according to law."



They rejected all grounds of appeal in the cases of both men, who are not related, ruling that "these convictions by the jury are safe".



The judges refused Rangzieb Ahmed permission to appeal to the Supreme Court, but certified two questions of law of general public importance - which means that Rangzieb Ahmed's lawyers can apply to the highest court in the land in a bid to take the case further.









Lancashire-born Habib Ahmed, who was sentenced to a total of 10 years in prison - nine for being a member of the terror group and an additional one year for possessing a document for terror-related purposes - also had his conviction appeal dismissed.



During the appeal hearing last year Rangzieb Ahmed's QC, Joel Bennathan, claimed that the UK was "complicit" in acts of torture.



He argued that the trial judge should have halted the proceedings against him as an abuse of process.



Rejecting Rangzieb Ahmed's appeal today, Lord Justice Hughes said the result of a pre-trial inquiry by the trial judge "was that torture had not been demonstrated to have occurred, and had been demonstrated not to have occurred before the sole occasion when Rangzieb said he had been seen by British officers".



He found that even if it had occurred later, it had no direct or indirect impact on the trial.



Lord Justice Hughes said the trial judge had "expressly rejected the suggestion of outsourcing torture by British authorities".



The trial judge had found "simply no evidence that they had assisted or encouraged the Pakistani detainers to detain him unlawfully or to ill-treat him in any way, whether amounting to torture or not".



The appeal judges ruled that the trial judge "was right to refuse to stay the prosecution against Rangzieb".



In a statement, Chief Superintendent Tony Porter, head of the North West Counter-Terrorism Unit, said: "Following the appeals lodged by Rangzieb and Habib after their convictions, there was a lot of speculation and criticism of how we handled the investigation, and in particular about an abuse of process and torture.



"Today, I am pleased the Court of Appeal has dismissed all those claims and upheld the trial judge's findings.



"The North West Counter-Terrorism Unit does not participate in, solicit, encourage or condone the use of torture or inhumane or degrading treatment. For reasons both ethical and legal, their policy is not to carry out any action which they know would result in torture or inhuman or degrading treatment and the Court of Appeal has recognised that.



"The principles we follow are that we always seek to act within the boundaries of the law and do not intentionally take any actions which could undermine any legal process. Today the Court of Appeal has also recognised that.



"We are pleased with this further vindication of our action which was taken to ensure we can fulfil our role in thoroughly investigating terrorism."