Justice secretary Jack Straw has been forced to order an investigation into allegations that a senior Muslim MP was bugged while visiting a constituent in prison. The February 5 Morning Star reported that Labour MP and government whip Sadiq Khan was allegedly bugged while visiting his constituent Babar Ahmad in a prison in Milton Keynes.
The Star stated that "According to BBC sources, a Thames Valley police officer made the decision to bug private conversations between Mr Khan and Babar Ahmad in Woodhill Prison in 2005 and 2006, using a microphone hidden in a table. Mr Ahmad, who has never been charged with a crime, is awaiting extradition to the US for trial over allegedly running a website to raise funds for Chechen separatists and Afghanistan's Taliban."
According to the February 9 Socialist Worker, "Babar was arrested on August 5 2004 after an extradition charge from the US. He has not been charged with any crime in Britain and the attorney general has given written confirmation that there is insufficient evidence to charge him."
Speaking to Socialist Worker, Babar's sister Sara Ahmad stated: "We are very concerned that private meetings with his MP, at which the strategy to fight his extradition has been discussed, have been bugged."
"We are also concerned that his legal teams' visits may also have been bugged, and are demanding to know whether the monitoring was at the request of the US. We also want to know whether the recorded discussions were passed on to the other side in preparation for its legal case."
Ahmed said that, "Our confidence in the Metropolitan Police and the authorities has plummeted. We have tried everything — petitions, letters, protests, attempting to get the Independent Police Complaints Commission to investigate. But Babar is still faced with extradition."
According to the Star, in the past year alone the police, security services and other agencies have made over 253,000 requests for data relating to individuals' telephone calls, emails and posts to internet sites. "The Home Secretary also issued 1,333 warrants authorizing spy operations in the last nine months of 2006", the article reported.
There are fears that the bugging of Khan's conversations with Babar may just be the tip of the iceberg. According to the February 10 British Guardian, "an unnamed whistleblower says that the bugging was part of a wider practice involving 'hundreds' of meetings with lawyers".
The February 11 Guardian reported: "The whistleblower has claimed that solicitors including Gareth Peirce and Mudassar Arani, who act for a number of terrorist suspects, had their conversations with their clients recorded by police."
Jim Nichol, a London-based leading human rights lawyer, told the February 16 Socialist Worker that these allegations "will mean that clients will be scared to talk to their lawyers. If people are afraid to speak openly to their lawyer, how can they have a fair trial? The idea that lawyers can be bugged is one of the most draconian aspects of the government's 'war on terror'."