The Guardian reports that the director of public prosecutions, Keir Starmer QC, has declined support for a private prosecution, which would have seen charges brought in a UK court against British citizens Babar Ahmad and Syed Talha Ahsan, as the men launch their appeals against an ECHR ruling last week. The DPP’s decision will frustrate the efforts of the men to fight extradition to the US. The private prosecution by Karl Watkin was a last ditch attempt to ensure the men faced trial in the UK.
From the Guardian:
“Lawyers for terrorist suspects facing imminent extradition to the US, including the radical Islamist cleric Abu Hamza, are due in court to make last-ditch appeals against their removal.
“Applications for injunctions halting the deportation of Abu Hamza, Babar Ahmed, Khaled al-Fawwaz and Adel Abdul Bary are listed for the Royal Courts of Justice. The court list does not mention the fifth suspect, Syed Talha Ahsan.
“The applications follow an announcement by the director of public prosecutions (DPP), Keir Starmer QC, that he will not support a private criminal action against two of the men, Ahmad and Ahsan, thereby clearing away another legal obstacle to their deportation.
“Supporters of Ahmad and Ahsan called for them to be prosecuted in this country for their alleged connection to an extremist website."
Ahmad’s case has received significant public and media attention with an e-petition calling for a Westminster debate on his case attracting more than 140,000 signatures. Ahmad has been detained without trial in the UK for eight years - the longest detention period of any British citizen.
In a statement indicating his rejection of a private prosecution in the UK, Starmer stated that, "I have refused to give my consent to Mr [Karl] Watkin to bring a private prosecution against Mr Ahmad and Mr Ahsan for offences under the Terrorism Act 2000…The underlying evidence in support of these alleged offences is in the possession of the USA. The material provided to me in support of the proposed private prosecution has been carefully considered by a specialist lawyer in the CPS special crime and counter-terrorism division."
"I have received written confirmation that the Metropolitan Police Service do not intend to refer any further documents or other material to the CPS for consideration."
Karl Watkin who brought the private prosecution has responded to Starmer’s decision saying: "The DPP's decision smacks of a determined effort to extradite both these men [Ahmad and Ahsan]. Yet their case is worlds apart from that of convicted Egyptian terrorist Abu Hamza.
"The public will decry this decision as it supports a trial of British men thousands of miles from Britain, where the alleged crime was committed, simply because, in the DPP's opinion, the evidence is too weak to prosecute here.
"If that's not outsourcing our criminal justice system, I don't know what is. To my mind, if you commit a crime in Britain, you get convicted in Britain. These two should be tried here and, if guilty, go to prison here. In my view, the evidence is clear and I have instructed my lawyers to consider asking the courts to order the DPP and attorney general to think again."
The Guardian continues that Boris Johnson has joined amongst others, Shadow Justice Secretary Sadiq Khan in also calling for Ahmad and Ahsan to be tried in the UK. In a statement Johnson said, "Clearly the UK-US Extradition Act (2003) is unfairly balanced. In the case of Babar Ahmad if there was a crime committed it was committed in this country.
"There is absolutely no reason why this gentleman should not be produced before the British courts, arraigned and asked to answer to whatever his crimes are here in the UK."
The article adds that “Watkin is separately seeking permission from magistrates to bring a private prosecution against Ahmad and Ahsan for other criminal allegations that do not require the DPP's consent.
“Legal sources suggested the home secretary, Theresa May, had discretion about whether or not to suspend an extradition order even if a private prosecution had begun.”
The campaign group, British Justice for British Citizens, are asking people to support the private prosecution launched by Karl Watkin on public interest grounds by writing to the Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer, and urging that he review his decision. You can also raise the issue with your local MP, encouraging him/her to write to the Home Secretary in favour of suspending the extradition order. Details on what you can do to support the campaign can be found here.
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