The BBC can now come out with a filmed interview of terror suspect, Babar Ahmed, allegedly held without trial, the High Court has ruled.
The Court found that his case was so exceptional that the ban on his interview should be quashed
Ahmed, 37, has been detained without a trial for seven years pending deportation to the US.
A British Muslim, he is detained under extradition laws and has challenged his removal to the US, where he is wanted for allegedly raising funds for Chechen and Afghan insurgents over the internet. Ahmed has all along been strongly denying his involvement with terrorism.
The development is significant as the history of journalists encountering difficulties in interviewing prison inmates is long. The list includes men and women describing themselves as victims of miscarriages of justice or abuses of power by the authorities concerned.
Mr Justice Singh and Lord Justice Hooper ruled he can give a filmed interview to the BBC, after the Bench found the case was so “exceptional” that the Ministry of Justice’s ban on his interview was a “disproportionate interference with freedom of expression” and must be quashed.
Delivering the verdict, the Bench also made it clear that the BBC victory should not set “any precedent for other cases”, in terms of allowing journalists access to prisoners.
The BBC and one of its home affairs correspondents, Dominic Casciani, had moved the Court as the journalist had been seeking to broadcast an interview with Ahmed, held without a trial longer than anyone else in recallable past.
In the significant judgment, the High Court held: “It is because of the unusual combination of facts that the present case, in our view, justifies departure from the normal policy.
“More than that, in our view, the claimants’ rights under article 10 require that departure in the exceptional circumstances of this case, and the [justice] secretary has not been able to justify denying those rights on the facts of this case.
“However, [he] is entitled to maintain the policy [controlling access to prisoners for journalists] which he does: no challenge has been made to his entitlement to have such a policy in principle and to apply it to the great majority of cases.”
Currently, Ahmed is in a special unit at Long Lartin prison, Worcestershire. He is awaiting decision by the European court of human rights on whether he should be extradited.
In March 2009, he was awarded £60,000 compensation at the High Court in London after an admission by UK anti-terrorist police that they subjected him to ‘grave abuse, tantamount to torture’ during his first arrest in December 2003.
He also appeared in the media in February 2008, when it was discovered that his conversations with Sadiq Khan MP had been monitored by the police during prison visits. An investigation of the monitoring found no impropriety
Babar Ahmad was born in London in May 1974, and grew up in Tooting, South West London. His parents migrated to England from Pakistan in the early 1960s.and his father is a retired civil servant, while his mother a retired science teacher.
He went to a public school where he won academic prizes and obtained GCSEs and A-Levels. He then went to university and obtained a Master’s degree in Engineering from the University of London. Before his imprisonment in August 2004, he was working in the IT department at Imperial College London.
According to Mr. Sadiq Khan MP of the House of Commons, Ahmad “is known locally in Tooting as a caring and helpful member of our community”.