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Terrorism & Security

Inquiry: British police bugged Muslim MP

A former police officer admitted bugging lawmaker Sadiq Khan's prison visit with Al Qaeda suspect Babar Ahmad.

By / February 5, 2008



Britain has launched an official inquiry into allegations that police officers eavesdropped on meetings between a Muslim member of Parliament and a detained suspect sought by US prosecutors on terror-related charges. A former police officer has admitted bugging Sadiq Khan, a member of the ruling center-left Labour Party, during a prison visit with Babar Ahmad, a terrorist suspect, on orders from London's Metropolitan Police. The officer's admission has raised questions about the government's oversight role.

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In the 1960s, Britain banned police from secretly monitoring MPs, but subsequent amendments have widened the scope of permitted surveillance – especially of ordinary citizens.

Mr. Ahmad, a Briton, faces US extradition charges over his alleged recruiting activities for Al Qaeda and other foreign militant groups, but isn't accused of breaking any British laws. Mr. Khan is a human rights lawyer and a prominent advocate for civil liberties.

Mark Kermey, an intelligence officer at the prison outside London where Ahmad has been detained, said he was under "significant pressure" from the Metropolitan Police to bug the suspect's private meetings with Khan, The Independent reports. The prison meetings between the two men, who were childhood friends, took place between 2004 and 2006. A bug was allegedly placed inside a wooden table in the meeting room.

Justice Minister Jack Straw told parliament Monday that ministers had played no part in any eavesdropping, the Financial Times reports. Mr. Straw, who was foreign secretary during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, said the official enquiry would determine who ordered the alleged bugging and report its findings within two weeks, if possible.

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