Stop playing silly buggers

Stop Playing Silly BuggersPeace and justice campaigners told the police to stop playing “silly buggers” on Monday following revelations that the anti-terrorism squad phone-tapped a senior Muslim MP while visiting a constituent in prison.

Justice Secretary Jack Straw told the Commons that a “fact-finding” investigation into the alleged police surveillance of Labour whip Sadiq Khan would report back within two weeks. Critics demanded to know who authorised the alleged bugging of the Tooting MP – an act banned under the so-called Wilson doctrine. Mr Straw replied that this was a matter for the inquiry, but he insisted that “no ministers played any part in these authorisations.”

According to BBC sources, a Thames Valley police officer made the decision to bug private conversations between Mr Khan and Babar Ahmad at Woodhill Prison, Milton Keynes, in 2005 and 2006, using a microphone hidden in a table.

Mr Ahmad, who has never been charged with a crime, is awaiting extradition to the US for trial over allegedly running a website to raise funds for Chechen separatists and Afghanistan’s Taliban.

In a strongly worded statement, Mr Ahmad’s family condemned the alleged affair but they insisted that they were not surprised. “After Babar’s abuse at the hands of the police and the subsequent cover-up by the authorities, it does not surprise us that ‘dirty dealings’ like this were being authorised in the prison,” it said. “It seems as though they were clutching at straws and desperate to find something to pin on him as they have been unsuccessful in doing so.”

Stop the War Coalition convener Lindsey German said that it was a “frightening state of affairs that the surveillance of an MP was authorised by one Thames Valley police officer and no elected politicians knew about it.

“It raises questions about the issue of surveillance and the state of our democracy,” she insisted. “I have had many conversations with Mr Ahamad’s family. Does this mean that those meetings were bugged? This kind of police control will make any grass-roots campaign very difficult and threaten democracy.” Ms German added: “The government and the police should stop playing silly buggers and get to the bottom of this.”

Morning Star, 5 February 2008

See also Star Comment: “Risk of a police state“.