- Created: Thursday, 16 December 2010 11:58
- Written by Cat Alison
Free Rangzieb Ahmed: tortured with the assistance of theBritish government
The battle to expose the truth about British complicity with torture continues as the appeal of Rangzieb Ahmed begins on 30 November.
Rangzieb Ahmed, from Rochdale, was convicted in 2009 of membership of Al Qaida and of directing a terrorist organisation, charges he denies. He admitted only membership of Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, a proscribed Kashmiri national liberation organisation. During the pre-trial legal arguments, Rangzieb gave evidence that while in detention in Pakistan, he was deprived of sleep, beaten with wooden clubs, whipped with a three-foot length of tyre rubber and had three fingernails ripped out of his left hand – evidence the trial judge described as ‘credible’. However, this was never heard by a jury; nor was the Labour government’s response to allegations of complicity in the torture, which was heard in camera and has never been made public.
In July 2009, in a bid to expose the government, Conservative MP David Davis used parliamentary privilege to make Labour’s criminal complicity clear. As he told the House of Commons, Rangzieb had been kept under surveillance between 2005 and 2006 by MI5 and Manchester police. During this time, the alleged evidence on which he would later be convicted was gathered. Yet – despite police believing they had sufficient evidence to arrest him – Rangzieb was allowed to leave, first for Dubai and then for Pakistan. He was arrested by the Interservices Intelligence directorate (ISI), at the request of the British authorities, in August 2006.
Davis continued: ‘The intelligence officer who wrote to the Pakistanis did so in full knowledge of the normal methods used by the ISI against terrorist suspects that it holds...The officer would therefore be aware that “suggesting” arrest was equivalent to “suggesting” torture.’
Manchester police and MI5 created a list of questions to be put to Rangzieb Ahmed by ISI. He was subsequently visited by two officers from MI5 and MI6 whom he told that he had been tortured. They did not return. Rangzieb was also questioned by US officers.
It was 13 months before Rangzieb was deported back to Britain in September 2007, tried and convicted in late 2008 entirely on the basis of evidence obtained while under surveillance in Britain and Dubai in 2005-06.
The criminal dealings of Britain’s security forces do not end there. In April 2009 Rangzieb was visited in prison by two men, one identifying himself as MI5 and the other as a police officer. After initially offering him protection in exchange for advice on ‘combating extremism’, they said: ‘If you withdraw what you are saying about torture, we can make a deal with you to reduce your sentence, or... we can give you money’ (The Guardian, 6 July 2009).
In prison Rangzieb has faced harassment and religious discrimination, which intensified in the months leading up to his appeal. His family also report what seems to be surreptitious surveillance from the security services. All the indications are that the British state is profoundly alarmed by what evidence of its crimes may be revealed by Rangzieb’s case.
For Rangzieb’s solicitor, Tayab Ali of Irvine Thanvi Natas Solicitors – who has been threatened with arrest in the recent past for speaking to the press about the case – the grounds for appeal are clear and include:
• that the evidence for the prosecution from a terrorism ‘expert’ was not reliable and should not have been admitted;
• that the prosecution was an abuse of process as a result of allegations that the United Kingdom authorities were complicit in Rangzieb’s illegal detention and torture.
It is Rangzieb’s case that he was interrogated by British intelligence officers despite having been tortured; that they failed to intervene to protect him in any way and instead were prepared to receive information extracted under torture and use it as a basis for their investigation – all this, Tayab Ali told FRFI, is legally as well as morally unacceptable.
Further, the fact that Rangzieb was then illegally rendered from Pakistan – rather than through normal extradition procedures – is a further abuse of process and there are precedents for cases being thrown out on these grounds alone.
However, it has been a battle to get the appeal allowed – and media organisations are still fighting for an open court hearing, while the CPS continues to demand that significant parts of the trial be heard in secret. Tayab Ali complains that evidence he seeks for his client – such as Pakistani records of his detention – have not been made available and that at times it is ‘like fighting with one hand tied behind your back, and blindfolded...we are still labouring in darkness’.
Tayab Ali says that Rangzieb is ‘fighting for the truth to come out’. He hopes that, if Rangzieb’s conviction for Al Qaida membership is overturned, ‘the Court of Appeal will be strong enough and bold enough...to do the right thing’ and release him. But he stresses that, for Rangzieb, ‘it’s not just about freedom. He wants people to know what happened. When Britain says “We don’t collude with torture”, he knows that they do and he has three missing fingernails to prove it’.
FRFI 218 December 2010/January 2011