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The terror of Babar Ahmad | Victoria Brittain December 3, 2011

As Stephen Lawrence‘s parents sat in court this week, they were a reminder to us of how their son became the trigger for a self-critical look into the dark side of British institutional racism, thanks to Lord Macpherson’s inquiry. Eighteen years after the Lawence murder, the case of Babar Ahmad may be poised to trigger another, equally explosive outcry into the institutional racism and Islamophobia that have allowed him to remain in a high security prison in Britain for more than seven years fighting extradition to the US. The Crown Prosecution Service has refused to prosecute him for the crimes that the US alleges he has committed here.

The Ahmad case became explosive when family and friends amassed 140,000 signatures on an e-petition for a parliamentary debate on his right to a trial here. In places like Bradford and Luton, young people mobilised by mosques, youth leaders and social networking have made their first forays into mainstream politics – deluging MPs with letters and emails.

The initial response of the backbench business committee last week was to tag this e-petition on to a pre-arranged debate on extradition to be held not in the main chamber, but in Westminster Hall. The MPs involved appeared unaware of, or impervious to, the groundswell of real anger among young people in particular, who felt disrespected by the MPs’ decision. And the outrage went much broader, with more than 100 lawyers, including QCs, writing to the leader of the house, Sir George Young, asking for a full debate.

Last Tuesday backbench MPs decided that on Monday there will after all be a debate on a motion “to reform the UK’s extradition laws as a matter of urgency to strengthen the protection of British citizens …”. But it does not mention Ahmad and the e-petition, with Dominic Raab – the MP who was instrumental in securing the debate – refusing to insert the key phrase “pending cases” into the motion, which would have included people facing extradition. This is not the democratic outcome of listening to 140,000 people’s voices.

Five other men, including three Britons, are in the same position of having been fighting extradition to the US for years from prisons in the UK, where they are accused of no crime. The stress on their lives can be gauged from the fact that one has been moved to Broadmoor after a breakdown in the special detainee unit where Ahmad is held.

Ahmad’s ordeal has had particular resonance in part because of the saga of the 73 injuries he received during his arrest, and his subsequent court case against the officers involved. In 2009 the Metropolitan police made an unprecedented admission that officers subjected Ahmad to a brutal beating causing multiple injuries, and offered him £60,000 compensation. The case exposed shocking behaviour by some officers, in which racism and islamophobia were overt; and incompetence, or worse, lay behind the curious disappearance of many sacks of vital evidence.

Two years later, in a criminal case against the officers, the jury was not told of the Met’s admissions, or the payment it had offered, and the four officers concerned were found not guilty.

The stigma of terrorism is behind this story of abuse and corner-cutting by police, compounded by an attempted cover-up in court – which failed once and succeeded the second time. Only last week it was revealed that the police, with extraordinary laxity, in 2003 sent material gathered from his house to the US, without showing it to the Crown Prosecution Service. Along the way, the Home Office, and regrettably some MPs, have failed to see the huge resonance of this case for Britain.

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‘Improper care’ given to Jackson November 1, 2011

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Dr Paul White said during cross-examination that he had never heard of propofol being used in a bedroom

Dr Conrad Murray deviated from accepted medical standards in his care for Michael Jackson, a medical expert said.

Dr Paul White, witness for the defence, was forced to concede during cross-examination that he had never heard of propofol being used in a bedroom.

The expert, who began his testimony last week, had speculated that Jackson took an extra, lethal dose of the sedative without Dr Murray’s knowledge.

Dr Murray denies charges of involuntary manslaughter.

If convicted, he could face up to four years in jail and lose his licence to practise medicine.

Dr Murray has said he administered propofol to Jackson, a powerful anaesthetic normally used in surgery, to help him sleep.

Continue reading the main story

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I think he was providing a service to Mr Jackson that he had requested and in fact insisted on”

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Dr Paul White

After lengthy cross-examination, Dr White, who has been called the “father of propofol”, said that the drug was not usually used to treat insomnia, describing it as “complete off-label use of the drug”.

But he said Dr Murray could have loaded a syringe with propofol and left it in a place where Jackson could access it.

Jackson could have woken up from sedation and injected additional propofol into his intravenous (IV) tube, Dr White speculated.

During his cross-examination Dr White conceded that Dr Murray may have lied to emergency room doctors when he did not tell them he had given propofol to Jackson in the hours before his death.

“I think it was something that he overlooked,” Dr White said initially, before admitting lying was an “option”.

The anaesthesiologist added that Dr Murray should have called 911 earlier.

‘Pushing propofol’

Dr Murray gave Jackson cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) before a bodyguard called 911

The prosecution also asked Dr White if he thought Dr Murray had violated the doctor’s oath to “do no harm” to his patient.

“I think he was providing a service to Mr Jackson that he had requested and in fact insisted on,” Dr White replied.

But he told the court he would not have accepted such a job.

“It’s something no amount of money could convince me to take on,” Dr White testified.

The witness also said when a patient was being given a “relatively small dose” of 25ml it may be acceptable for the doctor to leave his patient’s bedside after 15 to 30 minutes.

After further questioning, when the prosecution referred to a statement made by Dr Murray that Jackson used to “push the propofol” into himself, the witness said under those circumstances he would not have left the room.

It is alleged that Dr Murray left Jackson alone on a propofol drip for two minutes to use the bathroom. When he returned, the singer was unresponsive.

After Dr White delivers his testimony, the prosecution and defence are expected to deliver their closing arguments.

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Michael Jackson’s doctor stands trial for involuntary manslaughter September 29, 2011

Prosecution and defence lay out opening statements on first day of the trial of Michael Jackson’s personal doctor, Conrad Murray, in Los Angeles. Murray denies the involuntary manslaughter of the singer by providing him with a lethal dose of the anaesthetic propofol and other sedatives without the proper lifesaving equipment or skills

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Amanda Knox was a ‘faithful woman in love’ says defence lawyer September 27, 2011

There was “no trace” of either Amanda Knox or her former Italian boyfriend in the room where Meredith Kercher was murdered, a court hearing their appeal was told on Tuesday.

Knox, who was depicted as a witch at the previous hearing, was more like Jessica Rabbit in the 1988 animated film Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, according to one of her lawyers. “She can be seen as a man-eater. But in fact she was a faithful woman in love,” said the first defence lawyer to sum up before the judges and jury who will decide if Knox and her ex-boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, are freed.

Giulia Bongiorno, counsel for Sollecito, quoted the cartoon vamp: “I’m not bad. I’m just drawn that way.” And jabbing a finger at the prosecutors, she said: “They drew her that way.”

Her brief foray into the world of animated cartoons was the prelude to a vigorous assault on the prosecution case in which she came within a hair’s breadth of claiming that, like Roger Rabbit, her client and his former girlfriend had been framed. In 2009, a lower court decided Sollecito and Knox murdered Kercher in a drug-fuelled sex game with a third man, Rudy Guede.

Yet, said Bongiorno, “in the room of the crime, there are no traces of either Amanda or Raffaele. This is the absolute truth”. The only alleged evidence was a trace of Sollecito’s DNA on Kercher’s bra clasp, and that was evidence “torn apart by the experts’ report”.

In June, two Rome university professors appointed by the court to review the forensic findings had reported the DNA could have got there by contamination. The bra clasp had laid at the scene of the crime for more than six weeks.

The experts also reported that DNA attributed to Kercher on the alleged murder weapon was not necessarily hers. The knife bore signs that it had been handled by Sollecito and Knox, but was in the young Italian’s kitchen and likely therefore to have been handled by both.

As a result of the experts’ report, Bongiorno said: “Nothing connects Raffaele Sollecito to this crime … The few indications were to do with Amanda Knox and have been transferred to him. There are people who acquire a family along with a girlfriend. He acquired a crime.” But, added his lawyer, there was “nothing on Amanda either”.

Sollecito was a 23-year-old computer science student at the university of Perugia when he was arrested for the murder.

His lawyer warned the court against being misled by the prosecution’s emphasis on the number of judges who had endorsed its case. A footprint in Kercher’s bedroom was ascribed to her client and that version was accepted as fact by judges up to and including Italy‘s highest appeals court. It then turned out to belong to Rudy Guede, she said.

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Casey Anthony’s Defense Expected to Rest Case July 1, 2011

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — The defense for Casey Anthony is expected to rest Thursday after calling its final witnesses, though it’s still not known if the central Florida mother will take the stand to answer questions about whether she killed her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee.

On Wednesday, the defense may have been dealt a blow when Casey Anthony’s father broke into tears when telling jurors about his suicide attempt some six weeks after his granddaughter’s body was found. Defense attorneys contend Caylee did not die at the hands of her mother but accidentally drowned in her grandparents’ pool and that George Anthony helped cover it up.

Casey Anthony is charged with first-degree murder in Caylee’s death. The prosecution says she suffocated the child with duct tape.

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