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Monday, 17 December, 2001, 22:46 GMT
Bugging claim denied by minister
Lord Ahmed
Lord Ahmed has criticised the Afghan campaign
A Labour peer has renewed allegations that his phone was tapped because he was opposed to the government's policy on Afghanistan.

Lord Nazir Ahmed said that he and Foreign Office Minister Denis MacShane had an angry exchange over military action in the wake of the 11 September terror attacks.


It may be that after the tribunal has looked at the case there needs to be further investigation

John Wadham
The peer alleged that Dr MacShane said: "We know what you've been saying, who you've been talking to. Everything you say is circulated to ministers."

The minister has dismissed the suggestion as "utter rubbish" but the Conservatives are pressing for an inquiry into the claims.

"As a junior foreign office minister... I have no knowledge, no sight, no interest in anything that the security services does and absolutely no knowledge of any worth about conversations, bugging - I'm afraid all of this is complete and utter rubbish."

Dr MacShane said that he and Lord Ahmed had had a "fairly robust political conversation but one we left with smiles".

The Labour peer told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that he had evidence that his phone was tapped and that he had been followed.

He said he would be taking the matter to court.

Confidential

Lord Ahmed pointed to a conversation between him and a journalist from the Daily Jang newspaper which he said must have been bugged because it had been "confidential".

"He's [the journalist] a friend of mine, and I know that he wouldn't run to the Foreign Office to tell them, and it is in fact part of that that the minister knew."

But Dr MacShane told the same programme that he had merely set out to the peer the case for the government's policy and invited him to support it.

"What I said was 'Naz...I know you, you know me. We know where your politics are, we know locally, nationally, we see you with lots of people in the House of Lords, on the terrace and this is the time Naz to support the government."
Foreign Office minister Denis Macshane:
Denis MacShane: Allegedly implied he had transcripts of conversations

Ali Kiani, the journalist on the Daily Jang, said he had been friends with Lord Ahmed for 15 years and they held regular telephone conversations.

He said that the peer had been concerned that the civilian population of Afghanistan was being targeted and wanted to gauge opinion among Muslims.

"We discuss a lot of things in the community," Mr Kiani told BBC News Online.

Lord Ahmed's lawyers are preparing to make a complaint to the Investigatory Powers Tribunal, the body which looks into such matters and he said that he was prepared to take the matter to the European Court of Human Rights.

The allegation has also been strongly denied by the government, who said Lord Ahmed was not under surveillance.

The denial was described as "unusual, worrying and irregular" by Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Simon Hughes, who said the government usually refuses to say if someone is under surveillance.

'Further investigation'

Lord Ahmed's solicitor John Wadham, who is also the director of the civil rights group Liberty, told BBC News he wanted the tribunal to "get to the truth".

He added: "It may be that after the tribunal has looked at the case there needs to be further investigation."

Backing that inquiry call, shadow cabinet office minister Tim Collins argued the claims followed other cases where the government bullied those who disagreed with its policies.

Tim Collins, shadow Cabinet Office minister
Collins: Intimidation must stop
Mr Collins highlighted the case of Paul Marsden, the MP who left Labour last week, and new claims from the former chief inspector of prisons that he had been sacked by fax.

"These systematic, repeated and malicious acts of intimidation must stop," added Mr Collins.

A Home Office spokesman said: "It is a long-standing policy of successive governments not to comment on security issues."

But a government source told PA News agency: "Lord Ahmed is not under surveillance.

"If any individual was under surveillance, it would require the approval of the home secretary. That has not happened here."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Jonathan Beale
"Lord Ahmed's concerns will only raise more questions"
Labour peer Lord Ahmed
"I do not talk to terrorist groups"
Foreign Office Minister Denis MacShane
"I'm afraid all of this is complete and utter rubbish"
See also:

05 Feb 01 | Northern Ireland
MP repeats bugging allegation
23 Sep 00 | Northern Ireland
MP claims phone was bugged
06 Nov 01 | Sci/Tech
Bugging your keyboard
17 Dec 01 | UK Politics
Profile: Lord Nazir Ahmed
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