Today is the day that the case of Babar Ahmed will be debated in Westminster Hall after another e-petition hit the mark. The terror suspect is fighting extradition to the States:
“US prosecutors allege he was a global fundraiser for extremists in Afghanistan and Chechnya, through a website operated from south London but technically based in the US. He is also accused of having obtained information about US Navy ships and their movements in the Gulf.”
There are pretty good grounds for a trial here in the UK given he was based here, but before that can even be considered his links to Labour’s Shadow Justice Minister Sadiq Khan, who is expected to speak in the debate today, need to be properly explained. There have been seven years of squirming and story changing that could be rectified today. Khan has given no less than three conflicting accounts, on the record, about the relationship. Which one was the truth remains to be seen…
Ahmad came to prominence when it was revealed that his meetings with his old friend Sadiq Khan were bugged by the spooks. The first time the Shadow Justice Secretary went to visit Ahmad was as “a friend” in 2004 and he went again in 2005. Around the same time the story about Khan’s relationship with Ahmad broke in 2008, a page mysteriously disappeared from Khan’s website. A cached version of what he wrote in June 2006 is still available though. Crucially it stated “I have known Babar Ahmad for over fifteen years. We both grew up in Tooting.” But that isn’t what he told the House…
On July 12, 2006, a month after writing on his website that he had known Ahmad for 15 years, Khan told a House of Commons debate on the UK-US extradition treaty “Babar Ahmad is of a similar age to me and, like me, he was born and raised in Tooting. I have known him on and off for the past 12 or 13 years.” How long is it exactly Sadiq?
And that’s not the only inconsistency. Khan claimed he was visiting Ahmad in jail in his capacity as a “friend” and the Sir Christopher Rose Report into why Khan was bugged on those visits concluded that he made no effort to reveal to prison security that he was an MP. Fast forward to 2008 and the bugging story breaks. Khan is under fire and the Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman is put in an awkward spot where he quite clearly does not defend him:
“Asked if the Prime Minister was happy that a Minister of the Crown had close ties, all be it professional, with people connected to the 9/11 attacks and organisations that some believed should be banned, the PMS replied that Mr Khan was a Whip, and therefore part of the Government. In this case he was acting as a constituency MP in relation to, as we understood it, somebody he had known since childhood.”
The added detail is the most interesting – it was stated he was “acting as a constituency MP”. So Gordon Brown’s spokesman and Babar Ahmad’s even own sister Sara have claimed that Khan and Babar were friends since their childhood. However Khan told constituents in 2006 that he had only known him for a fifteen years and told Parliament that it was even less time. But what did he tell the prison authorities?
When he was filling out an application to visit Babar Ahmad in 2005 Khan told the prison that he had known Ahmad “since they were 12 or 13 years old; they were locals and attended the same mosque”. That’s not what he told Parliament…
If it was an honest mistake then today is the perfect opportunity to clear it up and have Hansard corrected, because Khan clearly mislead the House of Commons. Perhaps he could also explain the deliberate removal of details of his relationship with Ahmad from his own website. A more pertinent Member of the House might like to ask Mr Khan during the debate today a couple of questions that could settle this once and for all:
- Why are there three versions of the story? Given Khan did not tell the prison authorities he was an MP when visiting Ahmad in 2005, why was the PMOS briefed, presumably by Khan himself, that he was there on parliamentary business?
- Why did Khan try to downplay the extent of his friendship with Ahmad in 2006 only to have the truth revealed by Sir Christopher Rose, Sara Ahmad and the PMOS in 2008?
- Does he have any further connection to Ahmad, or his family, be it by blood or marriage, that has not yet been declared publicly?
Will today finally be the day we get some answers?