16 December 2020

Convicted terrorist’s claim against security services thrown out by High Court

16 December 2020

A convicted terrorist who sued MI5 and MI6 for alleged collusion in his torture by Pakistani intelligence has had his damages claim thrown out by the High Court.

Rangzieb Ahmed from Rochdale, was the first person to be convicted in the UK of directing terrorism in 2008.

He was jailed for life with a minimum of 10 years following a trial at Manchester Crown Court which heard he headed a three-man al-Qaida cell which was preparing to commit mass murder.

Ahmed, 45, claimed he was tortured at the hands of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency while detained between 2006 and 2007, before being deported to the UK and charged with terrorism offences.

He alleged that he was blindfolded and beaten during his interrogations in Pakistan, as well as having three of his fingernails pulled out.

Ahmed sued MI5, MI6, the Foreign Office, the Home Office, the Attorney General and Greater Manchester Police, claiming they were complicit in his arrest in Pakistan, and also his torture by supplying questions to Pakistani officers.

The fresh material might strengthen the case as it was presented before (the trial judge) but it does not transform it

But the six defendants applied to strike out Ahmed’s claim, arguing that he was attempting to “re-litigate issues that have been decided” before his criminal trial.

They said that, because Ahmed’s claims of complicity in his torture were dismissed by the judge at his criminal trial and later by the Court of Appeal, it would be “an abuse of process” to allow his civil claim to proceed.

In a judgment on Wednesday, Mr Justice Garnham threw out Ahmed’s claim, saying: “The issues of complicity in wrongdoing that were fundamental to the applications made and rejected in the criminal proceedings are those that are fundamental to the present civil proceedings.”

The judge added that “the effect of the civil claim, were it successful, would undermine one of the essential foundations of the decision of the criminal court”.

Mr Justice Garnham said of Ahmed’s claim: “At its heart, the civil claim consists of an allegation of complicity on the part of the British authorities in the unlawful detention, torture and ill-treatment … he says that the defendants are liable for his torture, ill-treatment and arbitrary detention because they, or their officers, were complicit in those actions.”

The judge said that such a claim was “a collateral attack on the decisions” of the trial judge and the Court of Appeal, meaning that “to permit the present case to proceed would bring the administration of justice into disrepute”.

He also refused an application to rely on fresh evidence which Ahmed’s lawyers argued demonstrated MI5 and MI6’s “involvement in the mistreatment of detainees in foreign states”.

Ahmed’s barrister Richard Hermer QC said that a report of Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee revealed “a wider policy or practice” by MI5, MI6, the Foreign Office, the Home Office and the Attorney General of “complicity in torture”.

Mr Justice Garnham said: “It is correct that recent years have produced cases in which serious allegations have been made against the British intelligence services in respect of their co-operation with foreign agencies allegedly engaged in serious mistreatment of those in their custody.”

But the judge added: “It is plain, however, that evidence to this effect and of this type was available to the criminal courts.”

He concluded: “The fresh material might strengthen the case as it was presented before (the trial judge) but it does not transform it.”

Leave to appeal from this decision will be sought from the Court of Appeal in due cours

Ahmed’s solicitor Raju Bhatt, of Bhatt Murphy, said: “The decision of the High Court today to strike out the claim brought by Rangzieb Ahmed against the UK Government is acutely disappointing, and leave to appeal from this decision will be sought from the Court of Appeal in due course.”

He added that Ahmed’s claim “raises very serious concerns of constitutional importance about the conduct of (British intelligence) agencies and, indeed, of the UK Government”.

Mr Bhatt continued: “It was, and remains, Mr Ahmed’s case that the conduct of the British intelligence agencies in facilitating his interrogation in the custody of the ISI was such as to expose him to arbitrary detention and torture or other ill-treatment for which they should be required to answer before the court.”

The lawyer said that it was “of critical importance to our rule of law – and therefore to our democracy – that his serious allegations concerning the complicity of the security services in torture and ill-treatment abroad are properly determined on the basis of the available evidence about their conduct”.

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