Six years in jail, no charge: the war on terror's forgotten victim speaks

Babar Ahmad, 35, is the longest-serving prisoner held without charge or trial in the UK. In his first media interview since his arrest on a US extradition warrant in 2004, Mr Ahmad tells Robert Verkaik that he is the forgotten victim of the 'war on terror'. In March 2009, he was awarded £60,000 in compensation after an admission by the UK's anti-terrorist police that they subjected him to 'grave abuse, tantamount to torture' during his first arrest in December 2003. Corresponding via email from a secure isolation unit at Long Lartin prison, he calls on the Government to charge him or release him. Today, the European Court of Human Rights rules on his case


Can you describe your life in the UK before your arrest?

I was born in the UK and have spent all my life living in south London in the Balham/Tooting area. At the time of my first arrest in December 2003, I was employed full-time as an ICT Support Analystat Imperial College London. My job entailed supporting the software needs of undergraduate academic teaching and postgraduate research. I have always been a devout Muslim and others would describe me as adhering to mainstream Islamic teachings. I have never been charged with or convicted of any criminal offence.

Describe the conditions of your detention.

I have been held in a number of prisons throughout the high-security estate since my arrest in 2004. I have been designated a category A prisoner. Initially, I was held on normal wings in prisons, alongside prisoners of all different categories. I was then moved to a small unit in HMP Long Lartin and held with other men fighting extradition or deportation. Over the last year and a half, the conditions of my detention have deteriorated. I spend all day, every day on a small unit with seven other prisoners. We are isolated from all other prisoners and all our time is spent in the claustrophobic atmosphere of a small unit. If I am extradited to the US, my conditions will deteriorate further. I face the possibility of life without parole in solitary confinement under the harshest of prison regimes in a Supermax prison, far from home, family and friends.

What is the case against you?

The central US allegations against me revolve around a family of websites that provided news in nearly 20 languages on Chechen resistance fighters who were defending their land against the Russian Army's invasion of Chechnya in the 1990s. According to the US, this was terrorism [The Home Office says Mr Ahmad is accused of providing material support to terrorists]. But according to UK this was, and still is, legal as Chechen resistance fighters have never been proscribed as a terrorist organisation, unlike al-Qa'ida. In fact, the leader of the Chechen resistance has been living in the UK for several years, having been granted asylum.

The US claims jurisdiction because it is alleged that one of the several dozen computer servers on which the websites were hosted was located in the US for approximately 18 months from early 2000. The US accepts that the websites were also hosted on computer servers around the world and that "at all times material to the indictment" I was living in the UK. Other peripheral allegations against me are that a US naval battleship plan document was allegedly seized from me in December 2003. The media raised uproar about this document when I was arrested on the extradition warrant. However, in a letter to Sadiq Khan MP, the former Attorney-General Lord Goldsmith wrote that it could not even be proven that it was in my possession. Another document seized from my parents' house was a tourist brochure (belonging to my father) of the Empire State Building in New York, which prompted the media to report "al-Qa'ida planned to attack Empire State Building". That brochure is dated 1973, which is when my father visited New York. What is more incredible is that UK police returned this brochure to my father after I was arrested on the extradition warrant, yet it still forms part of the evidence against me.

How were you tortured in the UK?

On 2 December 2003, I was arrested in a pre-dawn raid by anti-terrorist police officers at my home in Tooting. During my arrest and subsequent journey to the police station, the officers subjected me to a "serious, prolonged and gratuitous attack" and "grave abuse tantamount to torture", which left me with at least 73 physical injuries including bleeding in my ears and urine. I was held in custody for six days during which my home and office were searched, computers seized and analysed and I was questioned. On 8 December 2003 I was released without charge, after the CPS determined that there was no evidence to charge me with any criminal offence whatsoever. I believe that part of this decision was based on the fact that any future criminal trial would air embarrassing details of the abuse inflicted on me at my arrest.

Following my release I filed a formal complaint against the police and I gave several interviews describing my treatment. My case began to prove highly embarrassing to the Blair government.

When were you re-arrested?

After two months recovering from my injuries, I returned to work in February 2004 and tried to rebuild my life following my ordeal. On 5 August 2004, on my way home from work, I was re-arrested pursuant to an extradition warrant from the US under the controversial, no-evidence-required US-UK Extradition Treaty and taken to a high-security prison where I have remained ever since. To this day I have not even been questioned about the allegations against me.

Why is the US Government so determined to see you face trial there?

The question to ask is why has the Blair/Brown Government been so determined to extradite me? In my case there is documentary evidence to suggest that it is not the US that is really interested in me, but the Blair/Brown Government that has been determined to send me there at any cost. One only has to read the ferocious, lengthy representations that the Foreign Office has made to the European Court of Human Rights urging, almost begging, the Court to extradite me to the US. Their Herculean efforts eclipse those made by the US government itself.

What message do you have for the Coalition Government in respect of your extradition?

I have now been in prison fighting extradition for six years, which is the equivalent of a 12-year sentence. Whilst in prison I have outlived the the Blair/Brown Labour Government. To their credit, both the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives have steadfastly opposed this controversial UK-US Extradition Treaty and they have pledged, in their published Coalition Agreement, to modify it.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
voices
News
general electionThis quiz matches undecided voters with the best party for them
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen starred in the big screen adaptation of Austen's novel in 2005
tvStar says studios are forcing actors to get buff for period roles
News
Prince William and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge show their newly-born daughter, their second child, to the media outside the Lindo Wing at St Mary's Hospital in central London, on 2 May 2015.
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Ashdown Group: Part-time Payroll Officer - Yorkshire - Professional Services

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful professional services firm is lo...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before