Page last updated at 13:20 GMT, Thursday, 18 December 2008

Briton 'linked to core al-Qaeda'

By Steve Swann
BBC News Home Affairs reporter

Rangzieb Ahmed being arrested
Rangzieb Ahmed was arrested at Heathrow airport last year

A Briton has become the first al-Qaeda suspect in the UK to be convicted of directing terrorism. Rangzieb Ahmed was a member of al-Qaeda and was a key link between British recruits and al-Qaeda leaders. But concerns have been expressed that he was tortured for months whilst in prison in Pakistan.

When Ahmed travelled to Dubai in the winter of 2005 as part of an al-Qaeda active service cell, he had no idea he was being followed, nor that room 701 at the Versailles Hotel was being bugged by counter-terrorism officers.

Prosecutors say he had travelled there en route to South Africa on a terrorist mission which was abandoned when a senior al-Qaeda leader was killed in a US missile attack.

When Ahmed left Dubai his luggage was secretly searched.

Officers found notebooks with al-Qaeda contacts, some of which were written in invisible ink.

There is no doubt that Raingzieb Ahmed was linked to core al-Qaeda
Det Ch Supt Tony Porter
Greater Manchester Police

Detectives continued to monitor Ahmed when he returned to Britain, listening in to conversations in cars.

Gradually this revealed his high level links to al-Qaeda leaders in South Asia and his role as a "trusted and experienced operative".

In one conversation it is believed he boasted of having met Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the man who is accused of planning the 9/11 attacks and is currently facing a military tribunal at Guantanamo Bay.

Bomb-maker

Ahmed had also set up a terror cell in Manchester, which supported insurgents in Afghanistan but which was broken up by police last year.

Phone records established he had been in contact with one of the men who carried out a failed suicide bombing mission on the London transport system on 21 July 2005.

Det Ch Supt Tony Porter, head of Greater Manchester Police's counter-terrorism unit, welcomed his conviction.

Diary page showing al-Qaeda contacts
Ahmed was found with a diary containing al-Qaeda contacts

"There is no doubt that Raingzieb Ahmed was linked to core al-Qaeda," he said.

"He had the personal details of the number three in that organisation, Abu Hamza Rabia, and he was also linked to the chief bomb-maker from that organisation."

But Ahmed's legal team say their client was tortured during eight months of detention in Pakistan's notorious Adiala Jail.

Ahmed claims he had his fingernails pulled, was beaten with sticks and denied access to a lawyer.

He says a CIA officer was present during his arrest in Pakistan and that he was visited by MI5 officers during his confinement at Adiala. However, the judge at Manchester Crown Court disputed aspects of Ahmed's account.

Much of the evidence of Ahmed's mistreatment was heard in secret sessions where today the jury delivered its groundbreaking verdict.



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