Rangzieb Ahmed was born in Rochdale and moved to Pakistani Kashmir with his family when he was seven or eight years old. At 18, he was detained by India in Indian Kashmir. He was suspected of serving the Harkat ul-Mujahideen, a jihadi group fighting India, and held for seven years, up to 2001.
In 2006, Rangzieb Ahmed was detained in Pakistan and then deported to the UK in 2007, where he was arrested and charged with directing terrorist activities. He was found guilty in a Manchester trial and sentenced to life in 2008.
At the sentencing, Justice Saunders noted the jury had accepted the prosecution’s argument that he was a “recruiter and organiser” for al-Qaeda. Saunders added:
“I am satisfied you are dedicated to the cause of Islamic terrorism. You are an intelligent, capable and superficially reasonable man who is involved in terrorism. That makes you an extremely dangerous man.”
For its part, the Crown Prosecution Service welcomed the verdict by calling Rangzieb Ahmed “an important member of al-Qaeda and in a position to direct some of its activities”, “a trusted and trained member”, and “a significant player” in the terrorist group.
Rangzieb’s associate Habib Ahmed (no relation), a Manchester taxi driver, was found guilty of terrorist offences at the same trial and sentenced to ten years. At his sentencing, Justice Saunders said:
“You assisted Rangzieb Ahmed, a man who you knew to be an active terrorist working for al-Qaeda”.
The case showed that Rangzieb Ahmed was connected to several significant figures in Al Qaeda by way of telephone call records and entries in invisible ink in confiscated notebooks. They included Hamza Rabia, a senior Al Qaeda operative killed in a drone strike in Pakistan in 2005; failed 21/7 London bomber Yassin Omar; and Abdel Rahman, a Pakistani student in Manchester who recruited men for jihad in Afghanistan.
Rangzieb Ahmed appealed his conviction. He lost in February 2011. Crucial details were covered in the appeal process. His legal team argued that he had been tortured while he was detained in Pakistan and that the UK was complicit. Lord Justice Hughes rejected this, saying “torture had not been demonstrated to have occurred, and had been demonstrated not to have occurred before the sole occasion when Rangzieb Achmed said he had been seen by British officers”. Hughes “expressly rejected the suggestion of outsourcing torture by British authorities”.
Chief Superintendent Tony Porter, head of the North West Counter-Terrorism Unit, felt vindicated:
“Following the appeals lodged by Rangzieb and Habib after their convictions, there was a lot of speculation and criticism of how we handled the investigation, and in particular about an abuse of process and torture. Today, I am pleased the Court of Appeal has dismissed all those claims and upheld the trial judge’s findings.”
CAGE deemed Rangzieb Ahmed’s case so important that it placed an image of him on the cover of a report entitled “Fabricating Terrorism III: British complicity in rendition and torture”, apparently published in January 2011 [archived here].
The report makes no mention whatsoever of Rangzieb Ahmed’s detention in India in the 1990s. It claims he went from the UK to Pakistan in 2005 “to help in the relief effort” after the earthquakes in that country. It is not uncommon for those arrested in connection with terrorism to be presented as well-intentioned “aid workers” and no more. An uninformed reader is simply left to wonder why the Pakistani authorities arrested such a kind man in 2006.
The aid group Rangzieb Ahmed joined, Al Qasim, was based in the Red Mosque in Islamabad. It is a notorious extremist hotbed. A BBC profile in 2007 noted violent confrontations there between mosque students and Pakistani security forces and said the mosque:
“had a reputation for radicalism, mostly attracting Islamic hardline students from North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and tribal areas where support for the Taleban and al-Qaeda is strong.”
The report presents Rangzieb Ahmed’s torture allegations wholesale and at face value, without any qualifications or responses from those accused. It also mentions his UK conviction without providing any details about his extensive Al Qaeda links.
The central purpose of the report is set out in the accompanying press release issued at the time. It makes the following claim:
“Evidence is emerging that in waging this war, fabricated accounts of terrorist acts produced through forced or coerced confessions have been used to justify a whole raft of anti-terror legislation, and the illegal actions which are described in this report.”
CAGE pursued this line even though British complicity in torture had been rejected by the judge in Rangzieb Ahmed’s trial in 2008. The judge said:
“I am not satisfied that the British authorities assisted or encouraged the Pakistanis to unlawfully detain and/or ill-treat Rangzieb Ahmed in such a way as to amount to an abuse of the process of the court.”
Moreover, no information gathered in Pakistani interrogations was used in Ahmed’s trial. Instead, the prosecution relied on intelligence collected in Dubai and the United Kingdom.