Private Prosecution in the Babar Ahmad extradition case

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This week there has been quite a lot of media covearage about the Private Prosecution in the Babar Ahmad extradition case, which has several points of similarity with the Gary McKinnon case - no UK prosecution or even charges, no physical presence in the USA, but an extradition demand to the USA without any prima facie evidence cross examined in a UK court etc..

The BBC reports:

Terror suspect Babar Ahmad faces possible private trial

By Dominic Casciani Home affairs correspondent


A British businessman has told the BBC he wants to bring a private prosecution against two UK terrorism suspects.

Karl Watkin said he wanted to prosecute Babar Ahmad and Talha Ahsan, rather than them face extradition to the US.

Mr Ahmad has been detained without trial for a record eight years. The US accuse him and Mr Ahsan of running a major jihadist website.

The men are understood to have confirmed involvement in the UK website - but have not admitted offences.

Mr Ahmad and Mr Ahsan are accused of involvement in, a website and publishing business which between 1996 and 2002 was at the heart of the radicalisation of English-speaking Muslims.

Although the website was based and operated from London, it was technically hosted in the US.

Neither of the suspects has been charged with an offence in the UK relating to Azzam, despite the fact that the investigation by US authorities includes evidence seized by the Metropolitan Police. The CPS has refused to prosecute Mr Ahmad or Mr Ahsan and has rejected calls by the men's lawyer to review that decision.


The lawyers have also written to the Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer QC, asking his permission for a private prosecution under terrorism laws.

Anyone can bring a private prosecution if they can prove that it is in the public interest to do so. The DPP has the power to intervene to take on the case or to stop it.

If the DPP or a judge were to halt the proposed proceedings, the decision could face legal challenge, potentially halting the extradition.


Since the Crown Prosecution Servvice determined that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute under UK law, it would be astonishing if they were to change their minds now.

It is very likely that the Director of Public Prosecutions will refuse permission for a Private Prosecution. so the Kafakaesque bureacratic legal nightmare for Babar Ahmad and for Gary McKinnon will grind on until the Coalition Government politicians actually stop dithering and fulfil their pre-election promises to repeal or drastically reform Labour's appalling Extradition Act 2003.

If the DPP Keir Starmer did allow a Private Prosecution in a case regarding a UK controlled website, then that could open up another hugely controversy, as it will allow rich and / or evil people to censor any website they object to through this mechanism. Even if they have no hope of winning the case, the threat of crippling legal costs will have a chilling effect on free speech on the operators of such websites, much as the still as yet unreformed Libel laws do now. (c.f. the Defamation Bill currently going through Parliament)