Friday, May 29, 2009

Pathway To Darkness, Part 2: Babar Ahmad and the TSG

In March of 2009, Babar Ahmad, who is Officially Described As (ODA) a "UK terror suspect", was awarded £60,000 in damages pertaining to an exceptionally violent arrest which he endured more than five years earlier.

Ahmad [photo] is accused of supporting terrorism by raising money and equipment for jihadi groups through a pro-terrorist website and is fighting extradition to the USA.

He is wanted in the case involving Hassan Abujihaad, in a story that involves William "Jameel" Chrisman and (tangentially) Derek Shareef, all of whose names have graced these pages in days past.

To recap briefly: Derrick Shareef, ODA "a mall bomber", is currently serving 35 years in federal prison after trading a pair of stereo speakers for a box which he thought contained four grenades. The grenades were non-functional, the arms dealer who took the speakers as payment was working for the FBI, and the bogus arms deal was arranged by William "Jameel" Chrisman, a convicted felon now also working for the FBI.

Although Chrisman is always ODA "an informant", it's quite clear that he is primarily an agent provocateur, and his primary target in this instance appears to have been Hassan Abujihaad, a former US Navy signalman who once lived with Derrick Shareef.

Abujihaad, a Muslim convert formerly known as Paul R. Hall, is serving 10 years after being found guilty of sending confidential US Navy information to Babar Ahmad in April of 2001, when Abujihaad was stationed aboard the USS Benfold and Babar Ahmad was allegedly running Azzam Publications.

For federal prosecutors, the main problem in the case against Abujihaad was that there was no "forensic footprint" on the information police say they found on a disk belonging to Babar Ahmad. In other words, they had no way of proving that the information was in fact sent by Abujihaad.

This wasn't their only problem, however, since it turned out that the information in question was not so secret after all.

To get a conviction in this case, the prosecution needed more than circumstantial evidence, and Abujihaad was convicted partially on taped conversations between Abujihaad and Chrisman.

William "Jameel" Chrisman [photo] was sent by the FBI from Buffalo, New York, to Rockford, Illinois, and was tasked with meeting Shareef and gaining his confidence.

As it turned out, Shareef was looking for a place to live when Chrisman walked into his life. So Chrisman took him home to live with him and his family -- his three wives and nine children.

From that point until he was arrested, Shareef was under Chrisman's roof as well as under his influence, although the FBI was careful not to divulge these facts until after Shareef had been convinced to plead guilty. (Chrisman testified against Abujihaad later the same day!)

As revealed by a close reading of the affidavit filed by the FBI against Shareef, Jameel Chrisman fabricated every important detail of the "terror plot" to attack CherryVale Mall in Rockford on the last Friday before Christmas, 2006. Chrisman suggested the target, he suggested the date, he suggested the hand grenades ... and Shareef went along with him every step of the way, up to and including the phony arms deal that sent Shareef to prison.

And while that was happening, Chrisman was encouraging Shareef to talk to his old friend Abujihaad, and get him talking about doing some "jihad". Unbeknownst to Shareef, Chrisman was recording all the conversations. But Chrisman wasn't getting anywhere through Shareef, so eventually he began to call Abujihaad directly, trying to get Abujihaad to incriminate himself.

Abujihaad [photo] apparently suspected that he was being set up, because he shifted into code, speaking of "fresh meals" and "cold meals" in response to questions about whether he had been planning any terrorist missions.

Since Abujihaad spoke to Chrisman in code, he must have been hiding something, and that something must have been related to terrorism, and therefore he must have been the one who delivered US Navy secrets to Babar Ahmad, or something like that ...

So Abujihaad is in jail, but the feds are still desperately looking for something to use as evidence against Babar Ahmad, who was arrested in December of 2003. After Ahmad's arrest, according to the AP via KTAR:
Ahmad was released without charge but was re-arrested in August 2004 on a U.S. extradition warrant. He remains in custody.

American officials accused the Pakistani native of running Web sites to raise money for the Taliban, appealing for fighters and providing equipment such as gas masks and night vision goggles to terrorists.
Babar Ahmad, as the AP notes, is still in prison, but the AP report fails to mention that he has never been formally charged with a crime and no evidence has ever been presented against him in a court of law.

On the other hand, Babar Ahmad can now expect five-figure "compensation" for what he endured on the day of his arrest. According to The Guardian,
During his arrest, Ahmad was punched, kicked and throttled, the court heard.

Officers stamped on the 34-year-old's feet and repeatedly punched him in the head before he was forced into the Muslim prayer position and they shouted: "Where is your God now? Pray to him."

After a sustained attack, he was forced into the back of a police van, where he was again beaten and punched before being put in a "life-threatening" neck hold and told: "You will remember this day for the rest of your life."

At one stage, one of the officers grabbed his testicles and he was also deliberately wrenched by his handcuffs – a technique known to cause intense pain.
The Guardian also notes:
The Met [Metropolitan London police] had repeatedly denied the claims, saying officers had used reasonable force during the arrest.

However, lawyers for the force's commissioner, Sir Paul Stephenson, today admitted at the high court that Ahmad had been the victim of gratuitous and sustained violence at his home in Tooting, south-west London.

"The commissioner has today admitted that his officers subjected Babar Ahmad to grave abuse tantamount to torture during his arrest," Ahmad's solicitor, Fiona Murphy, said outside the court.

During the hearing, it emerged that the Met had lost "a number of large mail sacks" containing details of other similar allegations against the officers who assaulted Ahmad.

Murphy said the few documents that had not been mislaid should have triggered a thorough investigation.

"The horrifying nature and volume of complaints against these officers should have provoked an effective response from the Metropolitan police and the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) long ago," she said.

"Instead, it has fallen to Babar Ahmad to bring these proceedings to achieve public recognition of the wrong that was done to him."

She said other crucial documents relating to the case were also lost.

They included all the officers' contemporaneous notebooks and the taped recording of an interview with the senior officer in the case.

Murphy added: "The papers will be referred to the director of public prosecutions for urgent consideration of criminal charges against the officers concerned and for an investigation as to whether events surrounding the mislaid mail sacks constitute evidence of a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice."
The Guardian provides just enough context to dash any such hopes.
An IPCC investigation in 2007 ended with no action being taken against any officer.
The police officers who arrested Babar Ahmad in such a brutal fashion belonged to the Territorial Support Group (TSG), which is essentially the Met's SWAT team.

Assigned to deal with terrorism, public disorder, and high-priority crime, the TSG is never ODA a SWAT team, but there's no doubt that the TSG employs special weapons and special tactics.

The weapons include batons and shields and tasers, and the tactics are revealed in a subsequent article in The Guardian, which reports that
the Met was aware for years that the six [TSG] officers involved [in the arrest of Babar Ahmad] were the subject of repeated complaints. According to documents submitted to the court, four of the officers who carried out the raid on Ahmad's home had 60 allegations of assault against them - of which at least 37 were made by black or Asian men. One of the officers had 26 separate allegations of assault against him - 17 against black or Asian men.

The Met has confirmed that since 1992 all six officers involved in the Ahmad assault had been subject to at least 77 complaints. When lawyers for Ahmad asked for details of these allegations it emerged that the police had "lost" several large mail sacks detailing at least 30 of the complaints.

Senior figures in Scotland Yard admit there are concerns about the conduct of the officers. Although the Independent Police Complaints Commission supervised an investigation carried out by the Met, none of the officers has been disciplined for the assault on Ahmad and all but one are still working in the territorial support group. Asked about the string of allegations against the officers, the Met said that all but one had been found to be unsubstantiated following inquiries.
The Guardian lists some of the allegations.
Documents submitted to the high court and seen by the Guardian list details of some of the alleged assaults carried out by the officers:

• March 2007: one officer is accused of bundling a man into the back of a police van where he was told to "get on his knees". When he replied this was not Guantánamo Bay he claims the officer grabbed him round the neck and "discharged his CS gas while continuing to hold his throat". He says he was then thrown from the van, leaving him with eye, neck and head injuries. According to the document no action was taken because the complaint was either "incapable of proof" or there was "no case to answer".

• November 2005: two of the officers were accused by a "black male" of attacking him in the back of a police van. The document states that he was subjected to "constant kicking to his head and stomach (approx 12 kicks). Head lifted off the floor by grabbing his right ear and lifting head." The attack left the man with bruising and swelling to his face but the case was not pursued, the Met said, because of "non-cooperation" by the complainant.

• October 2005: the document stated that two of the officers were involved in another assault on a "black male". It read: "In van repeatedly assaulted - kicks to the face, stamps on his head whilst handcuffed." The victim said afterwards he "felt like he might die". Vomiting and blood coming out of his ears, black swollen eye, lip busted, hands very swollen.

• June 2003: two officers accused of beating a "black male" in the back of the TSG van. "The beating continued in the van and in a search room at the station."
The Guardian continues:
The allegations against the officers came to light after the high court issued a disclosure order on 13 February demanding that the Metropolitan police release all "similar fact allegations" against the officers involved in the Ahmad case.

The Met's legal team wrote to Ahmad's lawyers a few weeks later to say that "because of the sheer volume of unsubstantiated complaints" against the officers they would only be able to provide a schedule of the claims rather than the files in time for the deadline.

The schedule outlining 77 separate complaints against the officers was subsequently submitted to the court, along with a sample of complaints taken from 27 files containing some of the allegations. The police said they had lost several large mail sacks detailing at least 30 other files.

During the hearing it emerged that other crucial documents, including the officers' contemporaneous notebooks and a taped recording of an interview with the senior officer in the case, had also been mislaid.

Ahmad's lawyers say they are now calling for a judicial inquiry into the case and seeking a criminal prosecution against the officers involved. Murphy said: "The failure of the Metropolitan police and the IPCC to take effective action long ago against this group of officers can only be addressed by a full judicial inquiry and we will invite the director of public prosecutions to support the family's call for an independent judicial inquiry."
It doesn't take an independent judicial inquiry to figure out what's happening here. There's a reason why so many mailbags of complaints about police brutality have been lost. There's a reason why notebooks and tape recordings have disappeared. There's a reason why TSG officers with long histories of complaints about brutality remain on the force, without so much as a reprimand.

And it's all the same reason: they're simply doing what they're supposed to do.


Previous: Part 1: "The Easter Bombers"
Next: TBA

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