Babar Ahmad, who spent almost 10 years incarcerated in the UK without charge or trial, has returned home to his family from a US prison after being released.
Ahmad was sentenced to 12 and a half years in prison by a US court last year but was set free because of time already served.
The British computer expert had admitted supporting terrorism through the internet in an apparent plea bargain. He also admitted conspiracy and providing material to support the Taliban.
Upon his return in a statement his family said: “We, the family of Babar Ahmad, are delighted to announce that by the grace of God, Babar has returned home to us after 11 years in prison. Our lives will be enriched by his return.
“Although the past 11 years have been indescribably difficult for us all, we were heartened by Judge Janet Hall’s comments at Babar’s sentencing this time last year. She said: ‘There was never any aid given by these defendants to effectuate a plot. By plot, I mean a terrorist plot … Neither of these two defendants were interested in what is commonly known as terrorism … It appears to me that he [Babar] is a generous, thoughtful person who is funny and honest. He is well liked and humane and empathetic…This is a good person who does not and will not seek in the future to harm other people.’
“Today, we remember and thank all those who have supported us throughout. But for now, we kindly ask everyone to give us some privacy and space and not to contact us for the time being.”
Meanwhile, Babar Ahmad himself commented: “11 years of solitary confinement and isolation in ten different prisons has been an experience too profound to sum up in a few words here and now. In October 2012, I was blindfolded, shackled and forcibly stripped naked when I was extradited to the US. Last week, US and UK government officials treated me with courtesy and respect during my journey home.
“Today, I have absolutely nothing. Yet I am rich. All praise be to God. In time, I look forward to sharing reflections on my experience to help inform others. I recognise that the world has moved on since 2004, yet in some ways, sadly it has failed to progress.
“For now, I intend to reconnect privately with my incredible family, to whom I owe so much. It was a great joy to celebrate Eid with them for the first time in 11 years and to hug three of my nieces and nephews whom I had never met before. It has been a long time.”
Ahmad and others ran an influential online operation propagating armed jihadist ideology from the late 1990s; their beliefs born on the battlefields of Bosnia, where Ahmad and others went to protect Muslim civilians from massacre.
His mistake, as he admitted, was to translate that into support for the Taliban as 9/11 approached.
Ahmad, who spent a decade fighting against conviction, was accused of being the mastermind behind the world’s first English website dedicated to jihad. He had thousands of supporters in the UK during his record eight-year battle against extradition.
He was accused of operating the now defunct Azzam.com family of websites, established to spread jihad in 1996. The websites published reports of mujahedeen battles in Bosnia and Chechnya, and called for support for the Taliban.
Later, they also published documents setting out Osama bin Laden’s call for a holy war against the West. The US authorities said his online activities had an almost unprecedented global reach and that he sent recruits to train with the Taliban.
Ahmad was never charged with an offence in the UK, despite his network operating in London.
Ahmad, 41, admitted he ran the sites and said he made a grave error as a young man in going on to support the Taliban, but he denied that his interpretation of jihad for self-defence had developed into support for al-Qaeda inspired terrorist attacks.