National Fiction

Monday, 08 October 2012

Labour leader Ed Milliband wants the United Kingdom to be “one nation”. He likes the slogan so much he used it 46 times in his speech to the party conference. It is imaginative by local standards. Unfortunately, it does not guarantee a sense of security and belonging. UK judges – endorsing the extradition of five “terror suspects” – have confirmed that citizens will be delivered to America on request. “One Nation” or not, Britons are legally at the disposal of Uncle Sam.

The Extradition Act 2003 was a deal cut by George Bush and Tony Blair. It allows the US to request the extradition of Britons on “reasonable suspicion” without having to provide a scrap of evidence. It doesn’t work the other way because under the 4th amendment to the US constitution, Britain will have to show probable cause before it can seize any US citizen. Moreover even if the alleged crime was committed in Britain it would have to be tried in the US.

The danger is graphically illustrated by the horrific treatment of Aafia Siddiqui. The Pakistani neuroscientist was sentenced to 86 years for allegedly trying to assault and kill her military interrogators in Afghanistan. Believe that and you’ll believe anything. Still the British government has resisted all calls for safeguards and a more balanced treaty.

This isn’t the only cause for alarm. The case of the five men packed-off to America highlights the serious erosion of habeas corpus, the right to a swift and fair trial. Barbar Ahmad (38) was violently detained in December 2003 resulting in 73 forensically recorded injuries. Police searched his home looking for evidence that he was operating websites hosted in the US promoting Al-Qaeda jihad. The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) found there was no evidence to charge Mr. Ahmad and he was released six days later.

The police conducted a further eight-month investigation and the CPS again declined to prosecute. However the police passed on the evidence to the US authorities who requested Mr. Ahmad’s extradition. He was arrested in August 2004.

The US also used this “evidence” to request the extradition of Talha Ahsan (33). Mr. Ahsan, a highly praised poet who suffers from Asperger Syndrome, was arrested in 2006. To satisfy the Americans, both men – graduates of London University – were held for almost a decade without charge, on the basis of evidence already rejected in the UK.

Remarkably, the Extradition Act is also denying Britons a chance of being tried under British law for crimes allegedly committed in the UK. Unlike the 1957 Convention on Extradition and other treaties it excludes the concept of “natural forum” which allows an extradition request to be refused if the alleged crime was committed and can be tried in the host country.

There’s a murky background to the extradition of the three other men, Abu Hamza al Masri (54),  Khaled al Fawwaz (50) and Adel Abdul Bari (52).  The latter two face charges of planning the 1998 US embassy bombings in East Africa. Abu Hamza – a favourite of the tabloids – is notorious as the menacing, hook-handed preacher urging jihad at the Finsbury Park Mosque in London. In 2004 he was charged with inciting the murder of non-Muslims and stirring-up racial hatred. He was sentenced to seven years in prison in 2006. The US wants him for earlier crimes allegedly committed between 1998 and 2001

Nafeez Ahmed, academic and author of “The London Bombings: An Independent Inquiry”, is among the foremost experts on the “war on terror”. He says the extraditions reveal “the dubious role of the British intelligence services in secretly facilitating the activities of Islamist extremists on UK soil… and raise even more disturbing questions about the political games being played behind-the-scenes by US and British intelligence agencies”.

He points out that Hamza was only belatedly convicted of incitement in 2006 although the authorities had been in possession of evidence for years. Worshippers at the Finsbury Park Mosque, recruited by MI5 to spy on extremists, had confirmed four years earlier that Hamza was hosting British Islamist terrorists. They reported that groups were being taught to strip and assemble Kalashnikovs in the mosque’s basement, that scores of young men were being sent to training camps in Afghanistan, and that supplies including radio and telecommunications equipment were being dispatched to Pakistan.

As early as 1997 Hamza was running a terror training network across the UK. British ex-soldiers provided weapons, endurance and surveillance training. MI5 informants claim their reports were simply ignored. Journalists Sean O’Neill and Daniel McGrory believe the reality was even more sinister. In their book the “The Suicide Factory” they claim Abu Hamza had a working relationship with Scotland Yard’s Special Branch and M15 since early 1997. Former army intelligence officer and US Justice Department prosecutor, John Loftus claims that Hamza along with his colleagues Omar Bakri Mohammed and Haroon Rashid Aswat had been on the MI6 payroll since 1996 to facilitate Islamist-activities in the Balkans.

This is just the surface of a web of connections between intelligence operatives, patsies, provocateurs, opportunists and of course Al Qaeda in all its manifestations. Although an independent investigation still remains off-limits, an astonishing amount of detail has come to light undermining the official narrative of the London bombings. Many of the terror plots foiled “in the nick of time” and sensationally reported while the nation is on high alert, are suspiciously mundane in retrospect. Despite the conviction of some of those charged, the 2006 plot to blow up ten transatlantic planes flying out of Heathrow is considered highly implausible by experts.

The finest example of managed hysteria is the alleged Al Qaeda plot in January 2003 to unleash the deadly poison Ricin on the nation. It emerged conveniently in the run-up to the Iraq invasion and provided a powerful example of the terror threat. “This danger is present and real and with us now,” said Tony Blair. In 2005, after a trial lasting seven months and costing £20 million the jury concluded there never was a Ricin plot.

Things haven’t changed. Nafeez Ahmed says the authorities continue “to conceal the role of these violent extremists as assets of the security services in pursuit of narrow geostrategic interests abroad, a function which appears to have facilitated their capacity to support terrorist activity from British soil – including the 7/7 attacks”.  So much for “One Nation”.

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