Ahmad: Policemen now face review

Sunday 23 October 2011 02:07

Four policemen cleared of beating up a terror suspect must now wait to learn if they will face misconduct hearings.

A jury took just an hour to acquit the officers of assaulting Babar Ahmad during an early morning raid at his home in Tooting, south London, in December 2003.

Scotland Yard said it would carry out a misconduct review to consider whether it should bring any disciplinary proceedings.

Pc Roderick James-Bowen, 40, Pc Mark Jones, 43, Pc Nigel Cowley, 34, and Detective Constable John Donohue, 37, were found not guilty of attacking the suspect after a month-long trial at London's Southwark Crown Court.

Speaking outside court, their solicitor, Colin Reynolds, said they were looking forward to "getting on with their professional lives" and putting the "unfounded and unsubstantiated allegations" behind them.

Mr Ahmad, 37, was arrested in the early hours of December 2 2003 on suspicion of leading a group that provided support for al Qaida and other fundamentalist networks.

He claimed in court that he was beaten, sworn at and had his Islamic faith mocked in an assault that began at his home and continued in a police van and at a police station.

But the four officers from the Metropolitan Police's Territorial Support Group insisted that his injuries were either self-inflicted or caused legally when he was initially grappled to the ground.

In March 2009 Scotland Yard admitted that Mr Ahmad was subjected to violent assaults and religious abuse, and agreed to pay him £60,000 in damages, after he brought a personal injury case at the High Court.

But jurors today rejected the prosecution case that the four policemen in the dock attacked the terror suspect.

After the verdicts, Mr Ahmad called on the Met to bring misconduct charges.

In a statement read out by his father at a press conference in central London, he said: "Today's verdict means that no police officer has been held to account for this abuse.

"Therefore I urge the Metropolitan Police to bring disciplinary proceedings against all officers who were personally involved in the assault - and those who turned a blind eye."

Mr Ahmad was never charged in relation to his arrest but has spent nearly seven years in British prisons without trial awaiting extradition to the US for alleged terrorism offences.

He made a personal appeal to Prime Minister David Cameron to support his bid to be either put on trial in the UK or released.

"Mr Cameron, I've been in prison almost seven years, the equivalent to a 14-year sentence, yet I have not been charged," he said.

"My plea is simple: will you please back the British justice system and support British trials for British citizens?"

The trial heard that the suspect's arrest came 11 months after Detective Constable Stephen Oake was murdered in Crumpsall, Manchester, by terror suspect Kamel Bourgass.

Police chiefs briefed the arresting officers that Mr Ahmad was to be considered as dangerous as Bourgass and said they feared he would resist, the jury heard.

Pc Jones told the court he and the other officers in his unit were told by their sergeant before the operation that the suspect had been trained by al Qaida in armed and unarmed combat.

In evidence during the trial, martial arts expert Mr Ahmad admitted travelling to Bosnia three or four times to fight during the bloody 1992/95 war, but insisted he was not an "al Qaida superman".

After the verdicts, Judge Geoffrey Rivlin QC, the Recorder of Westminster, said he hoped Mr Ahmad's situation would be resolved soon.

He told the court: "I express the hope that his ordeal as a man in detention in this country for a number of years without trial is brought to an end as soon as possible, either by his extradition or by his release.

"It is no concern of this court as to which, but it is a matter of concern and I would have thought should be a matter of concern to the public at large, quite apart from Mr Ahmad, that here is a man who has been in custody for literally years without knowing what his fate is to be."

Mr Ahmad's lawyer, Fiona Murphy, urged the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) to launch "effective" misconduct proceedings.

She said: "The criminal proceedings have taken their course and the jury has returned its verdict.

"We now call upon the IPCC to put its abject failures in relation to this case to one side and to give proper consideration to the misconduct aspects."

Acting Commander Carl Bussey, head of the Met's directorate of professional standards, said: "The issues that have arisen out of the arrest have now been ongoing for a long time and undoubtedly this will have been a difficult seven years for all involved.

"Given the result, I will now ensure a misconduct review is conducted immediately so that the officers can be given a decision as soon as possible and this matter finally brought to a conclusion."