Page last updated at 20:44 GMT, Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Terror claim 'made to sell story'

Raingzieb Ahmed and Habib Ahmed
Habib Ahmed (R) is on trial with Raingzieb Ahmed

A taxi driver accused of being a member of al-Qaeda has told a court that he lied about being a terrorist to make money from a newspaper.

Habib Ahmed, 28, of Manchester, said he was working in a restaurant at the time he told the paper he had been fighting coalition forces in Afghanistan.

He said in an interview with the Sunday Times in March 2002 that he was an al-Qaeda agent, the jury heard.

Mr Ahmed denies being a member of al-Qaeda and attending a terror camp.

He said he was paid 1,400 for the Sunday Times interview in which he gave his name as Abdullah and was pictured wearing a scarf over his face.

He boasted in the interview that he had defied security services to slip back unnoticed into the UK, Manchester Crown Court heard.

He was also reported to have attended endurance training camps, in the Lake District, Scotland and the Brecons in Wales, as part of his terrorism preparation.

'All made up'

But Mr Ahmed said he had "made it all up" to give the reporter the story he wanted.

He said: "I was reluctant to do it but I knew he was paying money for it so I had to be the man they wanted me to be.

"It was all made up. I was trying to convince him that I was the man who had come from Afghanistan. That was the story. If I did not convince him I would not get the money."

His barrister, David Turner QC, asked him: "Were you an al-Qaeda agent?"

Mr Ahmed replied: "No."

"Were you part of a 10-man al-Qaeda cell in Britain?" Mr Turner asked.

"No, it was just all made up," he replied.

Similar story

Mr Ahmed also admitted acting as an intermediary to sell a similar story to the Daily Mirror for 100,000 in late 2001.

He claimed he was acting with his friend Hassan Butt, who is said to have renounced terrorism after previously claiming to have recruited hundreds of Britons to fight with the Taleban.

The pair told the newspaper that security services were unable to arrest Mr Butt when he returned to the UK because he had not committed an offence.

The pair became suspicious when they were photographed at the planned rendezvous with a reporter in Trafalgar Square, central London, and fled without payment.

He said his boss at the restaurant told him to take two weeks off after the resulting front page article - which referred to Mr Butt as a "outlaw who had recruited hundreds of Britons to fight for Bin Laden" - as it was bad for business.

The court has previously heard contact details of top al-Qaeda operatives written in invisible ink were recovered from a police search of Mr Ahmed's home in August 2006.

He denies membership of al-Qaeda between January 2002 and September 2006. He also denies possessing articles and information for terror-related activities, and attending a terror training camp in Pakistan between April 2006 and June 2006.

Fellow defendant Rangzieb Ahmed, 33, of Barnston Avenue, Fallowfield, also denies al-Qaeda membership and being a director of the organisation.

The trial continues.

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