UK approves extradiction of Ahmad
British officials ordered a British computer specialist Babar Ahmad extradited to Connecticut to face terrorism charges Wednesday, a decision announced after sixth months of deliberation. Connecticut investigators say Ahmad ran several Web sites, including Azzam.com, which investigators say was used to recruit and raise money for the al-Qaida network, Afghanistan's ousted Taliban regime and Chechen rebels. A judge ruled May 17 that the 31-year-old could be sent to the United States to face charges of supporting terrorism, conspiring to kill Americans and running a Web site used to fund terrorists. But the extradition had to be approved by Home Secretary Charles Clarke, Britain's top law-and-order official, who made his decision Wednesday.

"We are very pleased with the home secretary's decision, which represents yet another important step in our efforts to bring Babar Ahmad to justice," said U.S. Attorney Kevin O'Connor, Connecticut's top federal prosecutor. "We will continue to work closely with our counterparts in London to secure his extradition." Ahmad's arrest last year capped a multiyear investigation by Connecticut's anti-terrorism team.

Investigators said Ahmad had obtained classified documents discussing a U.S. Navy fleet's vulnerability to attack. Ahmad's family said it would appeal Wednesday's decision, setting up a High Court challenge to contentious new rules that allow American authorities to seek extradition without producing evidence of a crime. The case is proceeding under new extradition rules that lessen the burden of proof in some cases, allowing certain countries — including the United States — to provide "information" rather than evidence that a crime has been committed. Some lawyers and civil libertarians are alarmed by the "fast-track" procedures, which are not reciprocal because the U.S. Senate has not yet ratified the extradition treaty. A petition calling for Ahmad to remain in Britain gathered thousands of signatures.

Ahmad's lawyers have 14 days to appeal. They said if evidence against him existed he would have been charged in Britain. British police arrested Ahmad on suspicion of terrorism offenses in December 2003, but released him a week later without charge. "If our government has any evidence of wrongdoing on the part of Babar Ahmad, then he should be charged in this country and put on trial here," said Iqbal Sacranie, secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain.

In a statement posted on the Web site www.freebabarahmad.com, Ahmad said Clarke's decision "should only come as a surprise to those who thought that there was still justice for Muslims in Britain." The lawmaker for Ahmad's home district in south London, Sadiq Khan, also said he should face trial in Britain. "Mr. Ahmad's family and the local community are extremely concerned that he will not be subject to a fair trial in the United States," Khan said.

In May, Judge Timothy Workman allowed extradition after receiving assurances from U.S. authorities that they would not seek the death penalty or declare Ahmad an "enemy combatant," a category applied to detainees at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. British law forbids the extradition of suspects who could face capital punishment. Workman called the extradition bid "a difficult and troubling case," and said it raised complicated issues that the High Court should explore. Before the new rules were introduced, several high-profile U.S. extradition bids fizzled out when authorities were unable to back up their charges of terrorism with evidence.

In April 2002, Workman dismissed a U.S. extradition bid against Algerian pilot Lotfi Raissi, who was arrested shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and accused of being a lead trainer for the suicide hijackers. Workman ruled that the United States had offered no evidence to link Raissi to terrorism. The same year, U.S. authorities failed in a bid to extradite Egyptian Yasser el-Sirri, who allegedly funded terrorist activities targeting the United States, after the British government decided there was not enough evidence.
Posted by: Dan Darling 2005-11-16