The Shadow Of Abu Ghraib

I want to tell you about a man called Barbar Ahmed. He is of interest to America. So much so that he is facing extradition from Britain to your country, accused of running a website to raise money in support of terrorism in Chechnya and Afghanistan; of urging Moslems to fight a holy war, a jihad, against the West.

And, as I speak, Barbar Ahmed is in a British jail while he fights that extradition process. His is now waiting for a court decision as to whether his extradition to the land of the free would contravene the European Convention on Human Rights.

But earlier this week, here in London, he won a spectacular victory in a quite separate court case -- one which resulted in Scotland Yard agreeing to pay him 84,000 US dollars in damages. Because back in December 2003, Barbar Ahmed was picked up in a dawn raid at his London home. He claimed to have been subjected to 'serious gratuitous prolonged violence' by the police officers who arrested him, of repeated brutal assaults and foul language -- and of being forced into a praying position while an officer shouted: "Where is your God, now?"

Amazingly, he was never charged with any offence after that raid -- and this week when his lawyers finally got his complaints of brutality to court, the police authorities capitulated . They simply admitted the assault, and paid him the money.

So once again the shadow of Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib falls upon us. Once again we are reminded that those who enforce the law must at every step remain within it themselves. Those policemen who beat and insulted Barbar Ahmed did some damage to him, but they did far more damage to us and our whole democratic system.

It may seem a cheap and easy point to make while sitting in the warmth of a cosy studio, but the one thing we have to cling to if we are going to defeat the extremists is our belief of what is right and wrong. Whatever the pressure and temptation, our standards must never drop. Because too often in this battle against the new enemy, it is the West which seems to be in the wrong.
By Peter Allen