BBC wins battle to interview terror suspect

2012-01-11 21:58

London - Britain's justice department was wrong to ban the BBC from filming an interview with a terror suspect held for seven years without trial, judges ruled on Wednesday.

The broadcaster said it wanted to film an interview with Babar Ahmad in prison to cover public interest issues, including the psychological and physical impact of prolonged detention without trial.

Ahmad, 38, has been detained in Britain since 2004 on a US warrant. He is accused of running websites used to raise money for terrorists.

He has not faced charges in Britain and has been held without charge for the longest period of any British citizen detained since the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

In December, lawyers for Justice Secretary Ken Clarke defended his refusal to grant the BBC request, saying the general policy was to block such interviews with prisoners.

The lawyers argued that filming was not necessary to inform the public about Ahmad's story, and that granting the request would set a precedent for other interviews.

It also risked causing distress and anger to victims of terrorism, they said.

But on Wednesday, two high court judges sided with the BBC, ruling that Ahmad's case was exceptional and that the interview ban was a "disproportionate interference" with the right to freedom of expression.

Lawyers for the BBC and Ahmad had argued that a televised interview would allow the public to assess his credibility and show the impact of prolonged incarceration.

"He has aged far more than the number of years that have passed since he was first detained," said Phillippa Kaufmann, who represented Ahmad.

"This is what written communications cannot adequately convey."

Ahmad, a British Muslim, is awaiting the outcome of a European court hearing on his extradition to the US.

He is accused in the US of supporting al-Qaeda, Taliban and Chechen militants between 1998 and 2003 by operating a website that raised funds for terrorism and provided instructions on carrying out attacks.

  • Glenn - 2012-01-11 22:43

    What did the ANC complain about in South Africa? 6 months?

      Graziella - 2012-01-11 22:51

      What would you rather they did? And think carefully about your answer.

      Hermann - 2012-01-11 23:00

      No the ANC and the international community threw fits about our 90 days.

      Wim - 2012-01-11 23:09

      Yes but South Africa had the evil apartheid regime, while the Brits in South Africa only introduced pass laws, separation of the races, refused to entertain black voting rights, etc, etc, and that make them angels. So who the hell cares if they lock up some darky for an indefinite period without trail?

      Graziella - 2012-01-12 08:00

      @Herman Were you part of Vlakplaas, you face looks familiar?

  • Hermann - 2012-01-11 22:58

    And the Brits were so keen to criticize us for 90 days! Funny how the tables turn.

  • Glenn - 2012-01-11 23:17

    My point being, that they who had so much to say regarding the old SA, are very quiet when it comes to their own human rights abuses. As a matter of interest, 8 (?) of the 500 + prisoners have died in detention at Guantanamo Bay, which gives a percentage of 1.6%. Those figures exclude people held in foreign countries. Taking the figures from the ANC website, where 72 deaths are recorded from a claimed 80 000 imprisoned, the percentage is 0.09%. Now why is the world not going berserk about the injustice and horror.

      Graziella - 2012-01-12 07:56

      Hear hear, thought you were attempting to trivialise the locking up of people without trial.

  • Jerzy - 2012-01-12 06:57

    7 years without trial!! These are the same self righteous bastards that preach democracy and criticize other nations human rights records. Another sad day in caucasian history. Shane on you

      Graziella - 2012-01-12 07:59

      They've been taught well by their American bosses.

  • ludlowdj - 2012-01-12 11:37

    Although the courts decision is welcome in that it indicates a degree of freedom still being a part of British system, it is also disturbing in that prisoners should not be granted any civil liberties, especially those involved in terrorist activities which target civilians.

  • Gail - 2012-01-12 13:21

    7 Years!!!!! Why has it taken the legal system so long to actually try the guy and make a ruling? If he is accused by the Americans why is he in Britain?. Okay he is a British citizen I get that he has rights under British law but FGS don't the British and the Americans talk the same language? Perhaps the reason he is still in jail is because he refuses to be extradited to America and as a result was held by the Brits because he is a terror risk there but then try the guy and sentence him under British law. I have no sympathy for the guy IF he is a terrorist linked to Al Quada but to hold him for 7 years on suspicion really smacks of human rights abuse by the British Govt and legal system. Where are all the people protesting on his behalf that protested against SA govt detentions? Where is Peter Hain?

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