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Decision to Charge

Once the Police have completed their investigations, they will refer the case to the Crown Prosecution Service for advice on how to proceed. We will then make a decision on whether a suspect should be charged, and what that charge should be.

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DPP refuses consent to private prosecution of Babar Ahmad and Syed Ahsan for terrorism offences

01/10/2012

Statement from Keir Starmer QC, Director of Public Prosecutions:

On 7 September 2012, I received a request from those representing Mr Karl Watkin for my consent for him to bring a private prosecution against Babar Ahmad and Syed Ahsan for a number of offences under the Terrorism Act 2000. I also received copies of the documents upon which Mr Watkin proposes to rely in support of that prosecution.

My consent to the offences in question can only be given with the permission of the Attorney General and I have therefore consulted him before arriving at my decision.

When considering whether to give consent, I am required to follow the Code for Crown Prosecutors. I therefore have to consider whether there is sufficient evidence, which is both admissible and reliable, to provide a realistic prospect of conviction and, if so, I have to consider whether a prosecution is required in the public interest.

The material provided to me in support of the proposed private prosecution has been carefully considered by a specialist lawyer in the CPS Special Crime and Counter Terrorism Division. The same material has also been considered by my Principal Legal Advisor, Alison Levitt QC.

The material comprises two statements and a number of documents. The two statements purport to have been signed by Mr Ahmad and Mr Ahsan themselves but they are very short, lack any meaningful detail and do not provide any real support for a prosecution.

Most of the documents provided appear to have been printed off from websites. As they stand, they are probably inadmissible in evidence but, in any event, they do not  provide the necessary links between Mr Ahmad and Mr Ahsan and the charges that Mr Watkin proposes to bring under the Terrorism Act 2000. Any prosecution on such material alone would be bound to fail.

The letter seeking my consent to the private prosecution of Mr Ahmad and Mr Ahsan also makes reference to material held by the Metropolitan Police Service and to material provided by the United States of America and suggests that this material might be of use in the proposed private prosecution. Although not strictly required to do so for the purpose of dealing with Mr Watkin's request for consent to a private prosecution, I will address both of these suggestions.

So far as any material held by the police is concerned, in 2004 only a small number of documents relating to Mr Ahmad were submitted to the CPS for advice (there has never been a domestic investigation into Mr Ahsan). However, in the past few months the Metropolitan Police Service has reviewed its position in relation to Mr Ahmad following separate correspondence between the CPS and solicitors acting for Mr Ahmad and Mr Ahsan. The review by the Metropolitan Police Service included consideration of information that Saajid Badat provided prior to signing an agreement with the CPS under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005.

I therefore asked that enquiries be made of the Metropolitan Police Service to ascertain whether, as a result of the recent review, the police intended to send further documents or any other material to the CPS to consider in Mr Ahmad's case. Had more documents or material been supplied, the CPS would have considered that material alongside the material supplied in support of the proposed private prosecution. However, I have received written confirmation that the Metropolitan Police Service do not intend to refer any further documents or other material to the CPS for consideration.

So far as the material provided by the United States of America is concerned, any suggestion that it could be used in support of a prosecution in England and Wales is misconceived. That material was provided in accordance with the requirements of the Extradition Act 2003 solely for use in the extradition proceedings, which relate to the wider charges alleged in that jurisdiction. The public summary of the U.S. indictment provided by the U.S. Department of Justice indicates that Mr Ahmad and Mr Ahsan are charged with:

"....providing material support of terrorism, conspiring to kill U.S. nationals, and money laundering. It is alleged that Ahmad and Ahsan, through an entity known as "Azzam Publications", were members of a group that provided material support to the Taliban and the Chechen Mujahideen through various means, including the administration and operation of various web sites promoting violent jihad. The Azzam Publications websites, including, e.g., Azzam.com and Qoqaz.net, were hosted for a period of time through the services of a web-hosting company located in Connecticut. The indictment alleges that the defendants, using both cyberspace and real-world efforts, assisted the Taliban and the Chechen Mujahideen through money laundering, as well as by providing funds, military equipment, communication equipment, lodging, training, expert advice and assistance, facilities, personnel, transportation and other supplies, with the knowledge and intent that such conduct would support the military activities of these and associated groups. The indictment also alleges that, during a search of Ahmad's residence in the United Kingdom in December 2003, Ahmad was found in the possession of an electronic document containing what were previously classified plans regarding the makeup, advance movements and mission of a United States Naval battle group as it was transiting from California to its deployment in the Middle East. The document discussed the battle group's perceived vulnerability to terrorist attack."

The underlying evidence in support of these alleged offences is in the possession of the USA.

In the circumstances, I have refused to give my consent to Mr Watkin to bring a private prosecution against Mr Ahmad and Mr Ahsan for offences under the Terrorism Act 2000.

Ends