Extradition, the ECHR and terror suspects
Babar Ahmed is not a victim of an unjust and anti-Muslim system. To argue otherwise suggests that western governments are the aggressors and terror suspects the victims
At a time when many people are completely losing faith in the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) and its ability to appreciate common sense, it has managed to deliver a verdict that may salvage some respect. It has ruled that a number of high profile terror suspects (including Babar Ahmed and Abu Hamza) can be extradited to the US to be tried on terrorism related charges and that such extraditions will not lead to a breach of their human rights. The ruling follows very lengthy and costly (for the tax-payer) legal battles waged by both Abu Hamza and Babar’s legal teams to resist extradition.
Abu Hamza’s case has, understandably, garnered very little sympathy from the public. After all, he did become the face of violent extremism in the UK after his antics at the Finsbury Park mosque. The US wants him on charges of conspiring to take western hostages in Yemen, funding terrorism, and organising a terrorist training camp in Oregon between 1998 and 2000. His extradition, therefore, will be viewed as ‘good riddance’ by most people.
Babar’s case, on the other hand, is very different.
Babar is the longest-detained-without-charge British detainee held as part of the global ‘war on terror’. In a recent and fairly sympathetic BBC interview, he argued that he does not nor has he ever supported terrorism. During his first arrest in 2003, Babar had sustained 73 forensically recorded injuries before he reached the police station.
The high profile nature of his case has attracted a great deal of sympathy from sections of the public; in fact, there is even a long running campaign entitled ‘Free Babar Ahmed’. Many of his supporters are keen to portray him as the latest casualty in the West’s misconceived and overly aggressive ‘war on terror’. Sadiq Khan MP has referred to him as ‘a caring and helpful member of the community’ in Tooting. He even stood in the 2005 general elections in Brent North for the trotskyite Peace and Progress Party, founded by Vanessa and Corin Redgrave.
So it is worth taking a minute to explore the case against him.
Babar was the brains behind the notorious Azzam.com website which, back in the day, was the premier English language jihadist recruitment website. This is a charge he has never denied. Babar is also alleged to have provided expert advice and support to many other English language jihadist recruitment websites.
Azzam.com both glorified terrorism and encouraged visitors to provide material support for terrorist groups around the world. It was named after Abdullah Azzam, a Palestinian who became one of the leading Mujahideen fighters in Afghanistan during the 1980s and mentor to the young Osama bin Laden.
Azzam, however, did not believe in directing the jihad towards western targets. He maintained that it was only legitimate for Muslims to fight in lands that are directly occupied by foreign powers. It is rumoured that after the Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan in 1989, a power struggle broke out between current al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri and Azzam over the direction Arab fighters should take. Zawahiri was in favour of directing the war towards the west, whereas Azzam wanted to focus on Palestine.
There are no prizes for guessing who came out on top. The struggle wasn’t resolved peacefully either. Azzam’s car was mysteriously blown up one Friday afternoon as he was on the way to the mosque to pray.
So when Babar says he does not support terrorism, he means that he does not support attacks against civilian targets in the west, in line with the philosophy of his hero Azzam. What he does clearly actively support is efforts by jihadist groups in places such as Iraq and Afghanistan to undermine democratic rule and establish theocratic regimes through indiscriminate violence, all under the guise of resisting occupation. The devil, as ever, is in the detail.
It seems Babar’s efforts to support jihadist fighters weren’t confined to the UK either. According to the US indictment, he is wanted for:
a) Establishing and maintaining jihadist recruitment websites in Connecticut and Nevada.
b) Communicating with a US Naval enlistee with jihadist sympathies, with view to extracting classified information and encouraging terrorism.
c) Possessing classified US Naval plans of a battle group operating in the Straits of Hormuz in the form of a document which also discussed vulnerabilities of the Naval Group to terrorist attack.
d) Money laundering in the US
e) Purchasing camouflage suits, GPS equipment and a ballistic vest from the US with view to giving them to the Taliban.
The above, if true and proven in a court of law, would mean Babar was a serious facilitator of international terrorism and, due to the nature of the charges, there is a strong case for his extradition.
However, he is still innocent until proven guilty and deserves due process and humane treatment as all people do. I would also prefer to see him charged and tried in the UK since he was based here and most of his alleged offences were committed whilst he was on British soil. But to get carried away, as many of his supporters seem to have, and present Babar as a victim of an unjust and anti-Muslim system is to ignore the facts and be driven by a narrative that forever views western governments as the aggressors and terror suspects as the victims. In such instances the facts becomes irrelevant.
Ghaffar Hussain is a Contributing Editor to The Commentator. He is a consultant and commentator on Cultural and Identity related issues as well as Middle Eastern and South Asian politics
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