The first person to be extradited from the UAE to Britain has gone on trial for the brutal murder of a disabled man. Jeleel Ahmed, 28, made history last August when he was flown from Dubai back to Britain under an extradition treaty signed between the two nations in 2008.
He appeared in the dock yesterday at Birmingham Crown Court after pleading not guilty to murder. He has been held on remand in prison since being flown back to the UK. He is accused of acting as the driver for two "assassins" who fatally stabbed Shanwaz Ali, a muscular dystrophy sufferer who could only walk a short distance, outside his home in Birmingham in 2006. Ahmed was interviewed by police immediately after the incident but was released on police bail because of a lack of evidence. He immediately travelled to London and caught a flight to Dubai, where he is understood to have had relatives.
British police tracked his movements but were unable to do anything because of a lack of an extradition agreement between the UAE and the UK. All that changed in 2008 when the two nations signed a treaty. Until now, however, Ahmed has been the only person extradited in either direction - a bid by the UAE to have a multimillionaire businessman accused of drugs dealing extradited from Britain was rejected by the High Court in London earlier this year.
Nevertheless, the arrest and extradition of Ahmed is seen as an important landmark in the development of the UAE's legal system. "People have to understand that the UAE isn't a safe haven," Dr Mustafa Alani, from the Gulf Research Centre, who has studied UAE law and its impact on security, said at the time of the extradition. "These agreements are important because they send the message that you can't hide here, the UAE will not give you refuge or protection."
Ahmed denies playing any part in the murder of Mr Ali, 23, the son of a prominent Labour Party activist in Birmingham. "He was stabbed twice in the back by two men who were seen doing that by his brother," Timothy Raggatt QC, the prosecuting barrister, told the court. "This was not something that happened at random. There were clearly a number of people involved in what was a planned and carefully organised attack."
Mr Raggatt said that, at the time of the attack in January 2006, there had been a "simmering dispute" between Ali, a delivery driver, and Muddassir Zaman, who had organised the killing. The dispute arose after Ali had been involved in a car accident with a van that had business links to Zaman and his family two months before the killing. Mr Raggatt said that although the crash may have been Mr Ali's fault, he had denied responsibility and a dispute developed. At one stage he was sent a note demanding he pay compensation "or else".
Zaman decided that Ali should be "brought to account", according to Mr Raggatt, and the killers met on the evening of the killing to carry out the attack. Ahmed had played an important role, said the prosecutor. As well as being the getaway driver, he had helped to "clear up afterwards". Three years ago, Zaman, now 27, and Mohammed Shakil, now 29, were jailed for life by Judge David Matthews in the same court where Ahmed is now on trial.
That trial was told that Mr Ali had died in front of his "helpless" parents. "It is clear from the evidence that some hostility was directed towards Shanwaz Ali as a result of his conduct after that accident," said the judge. "What is clear from the verdicts of the jury is that they were sure that Shanwaz Ali became the target of a carefully planned attack." The judge said that there had been a concentrated search for the victim. "When he was found, he was followed to his home and as soon as he got out of his car he was quickly stabbed in the back twice with fatal consequences."
Judge Matthews said that nobody with an ounce of compassion could have failed to have been moved by Mebraham Ali's account of the devastating effect his son's death had had on him and his family. By the time the two men were jailed, West Midlands Police were already in contact through diplomatic channels with their counterparts in the UAE but the latter were powerless to act until the extradition treaty was signed a year later.
Ahmed's trial is expected to last at least another week. firstname.lastname@example.org