Parliamentary Intelligence Committee is told: Police’s arrest of witness claiming Woolwich attacker was radicalised by torture, sexual abuse and harassment was “ordered by MI5” by Nafeez Ahmed
A letter to the UK Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee by a childhood friend of one of the Woolwich attackers claims that the suspect was subjected to “systematic torture and sexual abuse” by Kenyan troops on behalf of Britain’s security services.
The letter – exclusive excerpts of which are quoted below – is authored by Ibrahim Hassan, otherwise known as “Abu Nusaybah”, who was interviewed by Richard Watson on BBC Newsnight claiming that MI5 had been harassing Woolwich suspect Michael “Mujahid” Adebolajo to join the agency as an informant six months ago. Hassan was arrested by Metropolitan Police under the Terrorism Act 2000 immediately after his BBC interview, and is currently in custody at Southwark Police Station.
A copy of this letter was obtained by this author today, photographs of which are posted at the end of this report, which also contains an exclusive interview with Ibrahim Hassan’s lawyer with previously unknown details of Adebolajo’s alleged ordeal.
Addressed to chairman of the committee Sir Malcolm Rifkind, and prepared with the assistance of his solicitors, Hassan’s letter insists on his innocence of involvement in terrorism activities, and his condemnation of Adebolajo’s “shocking acts.” Arguing that it is in “the public interest that everything that can be done to prevent such atrocities in the future should be the government’s top priority”, Hassan says that he believes “two fundamental factors” explain this behaviour:
“… the first factor was the systematic torture and sexual abuse he was subjected to by Kenyan troops which he believed was at the behest of British intelligence. Michael was told by his captors that this action by them was at the behest of UK authorities. He could not forget or forgive them for this connivance in this brutal treatment of him, when all he was trying to do was build a new life for himself outside of the UK.”
After his return to the UK, Hassan writes that Adebolajo “informed me that he was subject to further harassment and intimidation by the security services in order to pressure him into working for them as an agent.” The letter implores the committee “to investigate any connection between the UK and Kenyan authorities in the mistreatment of Michael Adebolajo whilst in their hands. I am witness to the fact that the Michael I knew ceased to exist after his treatment in Kenya.”
The letter also claims that counter terrorism police officers did not deny that the arrest was ordered by MI5. It points out that:
“at a hearing video link on the 26th May 2013 with Westminster Magistrates Court where the police sought permission from the court to extend my time in custody, my barrister asked if my arrest was ordered by the intelligence services [and] the police refused to deny this possibility.”
Hassan adds that he believes his arrest “was ordered by the intelligence services because I made this information public.”
Adebolajo was one of seven men arrested by Kenyan authorities during a trip to the country in November 2010. Kenyan police at the time accused the men of travelling to Somalia to join the al-Qaeda affiliated terrorist group al-Shabaab. His family and friends claimed that he had been detained without charge and tortured before his return to Britain.
The claims have been corroborated by a London-based human rights organisation, Cage Prisoners. Chairman of the group, Moazzem Begg, said the day after Hassan’s arrest:
“Is it a coincidence that Abu Nusaybah was arrested yesterday at the BBC studios right after he gave an interview which described the MI5 harassment and torture in Kenya – which British intelligence knew about and quite possibly was complicit in – of Michael Adebolajo?”
Begg confirmed that Adebolajo had “approached us around the time about it and we referred him to lawyers as a result.”
Now Begg’s confirmation is supported with further details by Ibrahim Hassan’s lawyer, Mohammed Akunjee of Soni & Kaur Solicitors in an exclusive interview with this author.
Akunjee said that his client told him that Michael Adebolajo had been tortured in Kenya under the orders of Britain’s security services. He added that this key claim put forth by Hassan and recorded during his BBC Newsnight interview was inexplicably not aired on the first programme. Instead, Newsnight waited until the release of Hassan’s letter to air the recording today, 28th May.
Akunjee said that, “Abu Nusayba told me that 6 months ago Michael Adebolajo had turned up at his house distraught and explained to him that he was being harassed and hounded by MI5 officers.
“They had been good friends for many years – since before each of them had converted to Islam – which is why Adebolajo confided in him. Adebolajo told him that during his trip to Kenya to undertake an Islamic studies course, he had been arrested by Kenyan authorities on the pretext that he was trying to collaborate with al Shabaab.
“He said that after being detained in a holding cell for hours, a number of Kenyan security officers turned up at his cell and beat him severely all over to interrogate him although he protested his innocence.
“When Adebolajo demanded to have contact with the British embassy, the Kenyan officers laughed and told him, ‘Who do you think asked us to do this to you?’
“One of the officers then stripped him and grabbed his penis. He told him, ‘If you don’t talk, I’m going to fuck you.’ As Adebolajo was innocent, there was nothing he could say. According to my client, Adebolajo said to him that the Kenyan officers then proceeded to do ‘unimaginable things to him which he couldn’t bear talking about’.”
“Eventually, Adebolajo was put on trial in a Kenyan court, but the case collapsed due to lack of evidence. Back in the UK, his family lobbied the Foreign Office and eventually the public pressure forced the British authorities into action and the Kenyan authorities were compelled to free him.”
However, according to Akunjee, as soon as Adebolajo arrived back in the UK, “he was greeted by MI5 officers who interrogated him at the airport.”
Although Hassan is a former member of the banned extremist group Al Muhajiroun, Akunjee points out that it is because his client shared similar experiences to his friend Michael Adebolajo that the latter felt comfortable with confiding in him.
Akunjee also said:
“I’m a criminal defence lawyer and have to assess the cogency of evidence and information on a daily basis. I can say that Ibrahim Hassan’s testimony on this issue appears plausible – he had no motive to lie, in fact, he knew that coming on record with this information could backfire for him due to his background. I think his testimony is credible.”
On Newsnight’s earlier decision to not air allegations on the crucial link between the security services and Adebolajo’s torture, Akunjee said:
“The specific allegations that my client related suggesting that the UK security services had authorised Kenyan security officers to torture him on behalf of British intelligence was not broadcast by Newsnight, even though it was part of the recorded interview.”
Despite Newsnight’s broadcast of that excerpt today, questions remain as to what prompted the editors to avoid doing so earlier.
Akunjee further raised questions as to why British police chose to arrest Ibrahim Hassan under the Terrorism Act after the Newsnight interview, rather than beforehand.
“They had ample opportunity to arrest him days before if they believed he had some connection to the Woolwich attack. My client is concerned that the authorities didn’t want this damning testimony to be broadcast, and when it was, to ensure that further revelations would not be publicly released. My client believes he is being punished not for terrorism, but for airing unsavoury and embarrassing allegations about the security services.”
Dr. Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed is an investigative journalist and international security expert who writes for The Guardian at his Earth Insight blog. He is the author of The London Bombings: An Independent Inquiry (2006). His work was used by the Coroner’s Inquiry into 7/7 and the 9/11 Commission.