Page last updated at 13:02 GMT, Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Cleared terror suspect 'bullied'

By Jeremy Britton
BBC News, Woolwich Crown Court

Dr Mohammed Asha
The judge criticised the conduct of police towards Dr Asha
The judge in the London and Glasgow car bombs trial has criticised counter-terrorism police after it emerged that cleared suspect Mohammad Asha was interviewed twice without a solicitor following his arrest.

Woolwich Crown Court heard how the Jordanian doctor was subjected to long interviews without a lawyer, despite asking for legal help as soon as he arrived at Paddington Green police station.

The jury in his trial heard claims that Dr Asha's treatment was "unfair and unjust" and that interviewing officers had lied to him and resorted to bullying.

Neurologist Dr Asha, whose defence was supported by NHS colleagues, was acquitted of two counts of conspiracy.

During his summing up, trial judge Mr Justice Mackay told the jury: "What this trial may have revealed to you, on this occasion, [is that] Mohammed Asha's rights were not fully respected."

Under anti-terrorism laws, detectives are allowed to conduct so-called emergency "safety interviews" with suspects before a lawyer is present.

30 June: Arrested on M6 with wife and child
1 July, 1am: Arrives at Paddington Green police station
5am: Custody sergeant leaves message for duty solicitor
6.15am: Duty solicitor calls back, told Dr Asha is resting
10.15am: First "safety interview" - 38 mins
10.54: Duty lawyer called again
11.25am: Lawyer speaks to Dr Asha
3.05pm: Lawyer says he cannot attend until 6pm
3.35pm: Second safety interview - 45mins

These interviews are solely permitted to ask the suspect if they know about any explosive materials that might be a danger to the public, such as a device that has been planted and primed in location.

But a suspect cannot be asked about the details of their case until they are allowed access to a lawyer.

In previous cases, safety interviews have been limited to a short series of questions directly related to possible threats.

Dr Asha was arrested on a motorway hours after Bilal Abdulla, now convicted, and Kafeel Ahmed attacked Glasgow Airport on 30 June 2007. Ahmed died from burns after ramming the jeep into the terminal building.

The trial heard that Jordanian Dr Asha was put through two safety interviews, the first lasting 38 minutes and the second lasting 45 minutes. In each interview, police officers asked a wide range of questions relating to his case without the presence of a defence lawyer.


During the interviews, which were played in court, officers swear and ridicule Dr Asha as he replies to their questions.

In one section, detectives ask Dr Asha why Iraqi doctor Abdulla gave him a package to look after in case anything happened to him.

"I'm telling you, this chap had in mind all the time that he's going back to his home [Iraq]," says Dr Asha on the interview tape.

"So you're a brain, you're a brain surgeon?" replies one officer.

"Well, I'm trying," replies the doctor.

Police outside Paddington Green police station
Dr Asha was taken to Paddington Green for questioning

"A prospective brain surgeon telling us that. It's just not right, is it?"

In a further admission, the prosecution told the judge that the interviewing officers had misled Dr Asha by telling him they had uncovered new information about him, but this was untrue.

Detectives often warn a suspect that they know more about the case than first appears and can see through interview room lies, as a means of encouraging them to come clean and avoid delaying an admission of guilt.

But in court, police officers were unable to explain why they had said this to Dr Asha.

They said they were doing everything they could to ensure there were no more car bombs in existence that could have been a danger to the public - and denied any attempt to deliberately keep a lawyer away from the doctor.

Stephen Kamlish QC, for Dr Asha, told the jury: "These officers disgracefully lied to him, intimidated and bullied him into thinking they had evidence against him."

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