At a public meeting held by the ‘Stop Police Terror’ group this week in Tooting, south London, Ashfaq Ahmad called on the government not to extradite his son, Babar, to the US, where he faces terrorism charges.
‘I want you to know the truth about my son despite everything that has happened and all the lies and ridiculous allegations’, Ashfaq Ahmad told the 400 people packed into Tooting leisure centre. Babar Ahmad, Ashfaq’s son, had been arrested for a second time a few days earlier, along with thirteen other men arrested across the UK in anti-terror raids. He now faces extradition to the US for alleged involvement in terrorism.
Babar was first arrested under anti-terror laws in December 2003. He was held for six days of questioning before being released. It was as a result of this arrest that Babar and others in Tooting set up the ‘Stop Police Terror’ group. Babar was himself due to speak at the public meeting held on Sunday 8 August but, following his arrest, his father took his place.
‘He is an average law-abiding young man who has never been in any kind of trouble before and has not even received a parking-ticket’, Ashfaq told the meeting. ‘You must all think that my son is a cold-hearted monster who was involved in some kind of evil plot. However my family and I are living in a nightmare. You cannot imagine the pain and suffering that we are going through.’
He commented that Babar had ‘not recovered from the physical or mental pain [from the arrest in December 2003]. He still suffers from hallucinations and cannot sleep.’ Ashfaq called on the British government to ‘put him on trial over here instead of being handed over to the American government’. He had he said ‘more faith in British justice than American injustice’.
He also accused George Bush of using his son as a scapegoat to ‘boost his election prospects’, adding: ‘My son is a victim of the anti-Muslim backlash in the country. My son is completely and utterly innocent.’
The Tooting meeting also heard from Dr Adnan Siddiqui, a local doctor who had been called by Babar’s lawyers in December 2003, two days after his arrest. He had been asked to document injuries sustained by Babar during the arrest.
Dr Siddiqui told the meeting how police had initially refused to believe he was a doctor and how he had to show proof of his qualifications. Furthermore, when he had finally managed to examine Babar, he had not been allowed to do so alone. A policeman and a forensic medical examiner sat in on the examination. Despite the treatment he had suffered, Babar was ‘very dignified’.
He found that Babar had suffered two potentially life-threatening injuries evidenced in bleeding from his ear and blood in his urine. ‘It was shocking for me to realise this was going on in Charing Cross police station.’
After Babar’s release, he visited a consultant who gave ‘unequivocal evidence’ that Babar had been ‘beaten up in a controlled manner’. A complaint by Babar to the Independent Police Complaints Commission is still being dealt with. Dr Siddiqui added that the brutality used during Babar’s arrest was reminiscent of the violent deaths in police custody of black men, such as Christopher Alder and Ibrahima Sey.
Two other men’s experiences, recounted at the Tooting meeting, were equally harrowing. One man, an Iraqi, told those assembled that, on a business trip, he had first been questioned before he left the country at Heathrow and then, once he had arrived at his destination, was arrested by the security services in Jordan and held for six weeks. During those six weeks, he described how he had been tortured, hung upside down and beaten on the soles of his feet. He had repeatedly been asked to inform on others. He was allowed to return to the UK but, here, he has repeatedly been asked to act as an informant on other Muslims. He said that he has refused to do their ‘dirty work’.
Another man, a Kenyan, who has lived in the UK for a number of years, told of being arrested on his return to Britain from a trip to Kenya. He was handed over to the Immigration Service who decided that, because of his ‘close links’ to terrorist groups, he was to face deportation. He was held for six months in Belmarsh with other ‘terrorist’ detainees before, fortunately, being released. He spoke of the ‘amazing’ levels of racist abuse which the ‘brothers’ inside were suffering. Many of them were on the ‘brink of mental destruction’ because of their continued detention.
Others at the meeting spoke of the need for action. Sheikh Suleman Gani, Imam of Tooting Islamic Centre, emphasised the duty of Muslims to pro-actively campaign against human rights violations, regardless of race or creed. And others drew the parallels between the treatment of Irish and Black communities in the 1970s and 1980s and the treatment meted out to Muslims today.
‘Stop Police Terror’ has called for a protest against the victimisation of the Muslim community under anti-terror policing. (See Protest against anti-terror policing)