Iraq convicts British pensioner after 15-minute hearing
Amnesty International has condemned the trial in Iraq of a 70-year-old British man who has been sentenced to 15 years in prison after a hearing that lasted only 15 minutes. Ramze Shihab Ahmed, a dual Iraqi-UK national who has lived in the UK since 2002, was sentenced by a court in Baghdad on 20 June after being found guilty of “funding terrorist groups”. Amnesty International has obtained and examined court documents and said it believes the trial proceedings were “grossly unfair”.At his trial, the ninth in a series of trials (he had been acquitted in each of the earlier ones), Mr Ahmed’s lawyer was not given the opportunity to challenge the prosecution’s case, or to cross-examine prosecution witnesses or call his own witnesses. The court also failed to exclude from the proceedings Ahmed's “confession”, despite longstanding allegations that this was extracted under torture.The court relied on information provided by a secret informant, with Ahmed’s lawyer denied an opportunity to challenge this information.In addition, statements - also allegedly extracted from an individual under torture and other ill-treatment - were considered in the trial proceedings. Earlier this month UK Foreign Secretary William Hague raised Ahmed’s case with his counterpart, the Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, while the latter was on a trip to London.Amnesty International has been running a campaign for justice for Ahmed (www.amnesty.org.uk/ramze) and over 6,000 of the organization's supporters have already contacted Mr Hague about Ahmed’s plight. Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said: “This is deeply disturbing news. Ramze seems to have been convicted partly on the basis of a confession that was allegedly beaten out of him. “The sentence comes on the back of what has already been a living nightmare for Ramze - of secret detention, alleged torture and then a prolonged trial that was itself grossly unfair. “We need to see this dubious verdict set aside and Ramze either given a proper appeal or for him to be released and allowed to return home.” In November 2009 Ahmed had travelled from the UK to Iraq in an effort to secure the release of his detained son ‘Omar. However, he was himself arrested at a relative’s house in the northern city of Mosul on 7 December 2009.For nearly four months he was held in a secret prison near Baghdad, during which time his whereabouts were completely unknown to his family. During this period Ahmed alleges he was tortured - including with electric shocks to his genitals and suffocation by plastic bags - into making a false “confession” to terrorist offences. Ahmed “reappeared” in late March 2010 when he was able to make a phone call to his wife Rabiha al-Qassab - a 65-year-old former teaching assistant who lives in London - imploring her to seek help from the UK authorities. However, partly on the basis of his “confession”, Ahmed was subsequently put on trial, including on various terrorism charges.