Babar Ahmad: Will Politicians Listen?

 23 Nov 2011

Britain’s leading Muslim representative body, the Muslim Council of Britain, calls for proper Parliamentary debate over the Babar Ahmad ‘detainee-without-charge’ case.

The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) is adding its weight to a call for a proper Parliamentary debate on the Babar Ahmad case.

Over 140,000 people have now signed an e-petition calling for British detainee Ahmad to be placed on trial in the UK. Politicians, however, seem to be sidelining a proper debate – despite a Parliamentary mandate to do so.

One hundred leading barristers and solicitors have also signed an open letter to the Leader of the House of Commons, Sir George Young, requesting a full parliamentary debate on the issue of putting Babar Ahmad on trial in the UK. The lawyers, who include Michael Mansfield QC (Tooks Chambers), James Wood QC (Doughty Street Chambers), Kirsty Brimelow QC (Doughty Street Chambers) and Karen Todner, solicitor for Gary McKinnon highlighted how “concerning” it is “when parliament dismisses the concerns of over 140,000 people” and how “such a conclusion will only further alienate a public whose goodwill is being taken for granted”.

When an “e-petition” reaches the 100,000 mark, it is supposed to automatically trigger a Parliamentary debate, in the main chamber of the House of Commons. MPs on the Backbench Business Committee (which schedules debates arising from e-petitions) have instead tagged the Ahmad debate onto an existing discussion on extradition being held later this month in nearby Westminster Hall. There will be no separate tabling of the case – despite the huge call to do so – and no guarantee MPs will attend.

“This is incredibly disappointing for those thousands of people – many of them young – who believed that following the will of democracy would bring about change,” said Farooq Murad, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB).

“Those who are calling for this debate simply want to ensure he has a fair trial, under British law. There is a long and famous tradition of ‘British justice’. Let our courts decide the Ahmad case here, not outsource it to a foreign state. The ball is in our politicians’ court.”

Notes to Editors:

1. Ahmad is the 37-year-old British Muslim who has been held without charge for seven years, awaiting deportation to the USA. He is the longest serving detainee-without-charge in the country. His case has generated huge interest, not least for the 73 injuries he sustained during his initial arrest on terror-related charges in 2003 (which were later dropped and for which he was compensated £60,000) by the lopsided nature of the 2003 US-UK Extradition Treaty.

2. The discussion is due to be held tomorrow (Thursday 24th November 2011) in Westminster Hall.

3. For more background on the Babar Ahmad case, please see former MCB Secretary General Muhammad Bari’s article here and on Al-Jazeera English and the Huffington Post; further campaign updates can be found at website.