Just when it seemed like Babar Ahmad had exhausted all his options to avoid extradition to the United States on terrorism charges, a new twist has emerged. Yesterday, a wealthy tycoon from Newcastle, Karl Watkin, said he would bring a private prosecution against Ahmad.
In theory, anyone can bring a private prosecution if they can demonstrate it is in public interest to do so. Individuals bringing such actions act in cases where they believe the Crown Prosecution Service has failed in its duty to initiate criminal proceedings.
Ahmad has been held in custody since August 2004 after the United States requested his extradition on terrorism charges relating to a website he operated called Azzam.com. Although the site was run from London, it was hosted in Texas which prompted the Americans to initiate criminal proceedings against him.
Watkin has said he is bringing the prosecution to protest Britain’s extradition treaty with the United States which many campaigners believe is lopsided and weighted against British citizens. They argue it streamlines the extradition of British offenders while offering them few safeguards.
‘This controversy is unwarranted, and the critics’ claims are incorrect,’ argue Theodore Bromund and Andrew Southam in a report published by the Heritage Foundation yesterday.
One of Ahmad’s central claims against extradition is that, if convicted, he would face life imprisonment in a federal ‘supermax’ facility. Yet, as Bromund and Southam point out:
…in an April 2012 decision allowing the extradition of five terrorist suspects from Britain to the U.S., the ECHR found that inmates in U.S. supermax prisons, ‘although confined to their cells for the vast majority of the time,’ were ‘provided with services and activities (television, radio, newspapers, books, hobby and craft items, telephone calls, social visits, correspondence with families, group prayer) which went beyond what was provided in most prisons in Europe.