British government launches probe in Muslim "spying" row

Other News Materials 4 February 2008 21:49 (UTC +04:00)

( dpa ) - The British government launched a "fact-finding" inquiry Monday into allegations that one of the country's few leading Muslim parliamentarians was monitored by the anti-terrorist police.

The decision to launch an inquiry, announced in parliament by Justice Secretary Jack Straw, follows allegations in a newspaper that Scotland Yard's anti-terrorism branch eavesdropped on Sadiq Khan, a prominent Labour politician.

Khan, 37, a former human rights lawyer, became a member of parliament three years ago, and is a rising star in Prime Minister Gordon Brown's ruling Labour Party.

It has been alleged that two conversations he had in prison with one of his constituents, a man wanted by the United States on terrorism charges, were bugged - in contravention of a ruling exempting MPs from such practices.

Babar Ahmed, 32, who is accused by the US authorities of raising money for the Taliban in Afghanistan and running websites "inciting murder," is fighting extradition.

He was visited twice in prison by Khan in 2005 and 2006, when the private conversations between the two men were allegedly recorded by a device hidden under a desk they were sitting at in the jail's visitors' room.

Straw said in parliament Monday that no minister had played any part in authorizing the alleged bugging, and promised to report on the result of the inquiry in about two weeks' time.

The government has denied that it was informed of the illegal bugging of Khan's conversations with the terrorism suspect last December.