August 30, 2006
Restriction order on cab driver cleared in terror case
By Dominic Kennedy, Rajeev Syal and Richard Ford
AN IRAQI minicab driver cleared yesterday of making videos of potential terrorist targets was immediately placed under a Home Office control order to restrict his movements, The Times has learnt.
Rauf Abdullah Mohammed, who came to Britain as an asylum-seeker six years ago, was found not guilty of four charges of making or possessing a video of potential terrorist targets, including Big Ben and the London Eye.
Minutes after the verdict, he was placed under a control order which allows the Home Office to restrict where he goes and who he meets. An order can also curb access to telephones and the internet and permit police to enter a suspect’s home at any time.
Civil liberties groups last night criticised the issuing of the control order for Mr Rauf, saying that it amounted to a secretive, watered-down version of a conviction.
Mr Rauf, 26, was accused at Woolwich Crown Court, southeast London, of making a record of information likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism. He put his face in his hands and sobbed as the foreman of the jury panel read out the not guilty verdicts.
The prosecution alleged that he had toured London, listening to music that praised martyrdom and speaking of killing Western leaders, including Tony Blair.
The video, made in September 2003, also contained a speech by Osama bin Laden and footage of the Houses of Parliament and Park Lane hotels. The prosecution claimed that shots of Paddington Green police station, where terrorist suspects are interrogated, were evidence that the video was part of a terrorist plot.
Mr Rauf was heard on the video calling for the death of world leaders, the court was told. “God willing, now we go to Tony Blair, God willing we slay him. Tony Blair, George Bush, Berlusconi and Rumsfeld, all of them, God willing,” he said.
Defence counsel claimed that the video was only a souvenir intended for Mr Rauf’s relatives abroad. It also included shots of Edgware Road, the Central London area that is home to many Arabs, they said.
Maz Ibrahim, a Sudanese student, testified that he helped Mr Rauf to make the film as a keepsake. He was heard on tape saying: “Rauf is planning a bombing operation.”
This comment, Mr Ibrahim said, was an example of the men’s ironic sense of humour. Mr Rauf, he claimed, was bearded and fitted the visual stereotype of a Muslim terrorist, which they joked about.
Lawrence McNulty, Mr Rauf’s counsel, claimed that he was in effect the victim of a set-up by a government desperate for terrorist convictions to justify its foreign policy. The trial, he said, discouraged innocent Muslims in the community from helping the authorities.
The jury returned four not guilty verdicts, relating to possession and making of the original and a copy of the video.
Mr Rauf, born in Baghdad to a Kurdish-Arabian family, paid $4,000 (£2,200) in 2000 to be smuggled to Britain in the back of a lorry. On his arrival he applied for political asylum and went on to work as a minicab driver in East London. He had failed his driving test, and applied for a driver’s permit using his brother’s name.
Since his arrival in Britain, he had travelled extensively across the Muslim world, including to Syria and Iraq.
The Home Office had taken steps to deport him in January last year on the ground that his presence was “not conducive to the public good”, sources said. The Home Office withdrew his deportation notice last November, when the Crown Prosecution Service decided to press charges relating to the video.
A Home Office minister applied to a judge in private for the control order. John Reid, the Home Secretary, is on holiday. After the verdict, a Home Office spokesman said: “We have contingency plans in place to deal with restricting this man’s movements.”
But Gareth Crossman, policy director of Liberty, said: “Unfortunately it appears that control orders have become a ‘conviction lite’, being used as a sanction where a jury has acquitted. The Government has not heeded repeated warnings that control orders involve secret courts and secret evidence that are not compatible with the right to a fair trial.”
Source: The Times