A Labour peer who was jailed for sending text messages shortly before his car was in a fatal motorway crash has blamed his imprisonment on a Jewish conspiracy.
Lord Ahmed claimed that his prison sentence for dangerous driving resulted from pressure placed on the courts by Jews “who own newspapers and TV channels”. The Muslim peer also alleged that the judge who jailed him for 12 weeks was appointed to the High Court after helping a “Jewish colleague” of Tony Blair during “an important case”.
He claimed, falsely, that Mr Justice Wilkie was hand-picked and sent from London to carry out the 2009 sentencing at Sheffield Crown Court because no other judge was willing to handle his case. The alleged plot to punish him stemmed, Lord Ahmed claimed, from Jewish disapproval of his support for the Palestinians in Gaza. His comments were made during a television interview on a visit to Pakistan.
A leading solicitor said yesterday that if the peer had given the interview in Britain he could have been liable to prosecution for inciting racial hatred.
A Labour spokesman said that the party would investigate the comments. “The Labour Party deplores and does not tolerate any sort of racism or anti-Semitism. We will be seeking to clarify these remarks as soon as possible.”
The Times has obtained video and audio of the Urdu-language broadcast, in which the 55-year-old Pakistan-born businessman also claims, falsely, that his conviction was subsequently overturned “in a way that kept my honour intact”.
In reality, three Court of Appeal judges refused to quash the conviction.They said that the prison sentence was justified and that there should not be “one law for the rich and powerful and one law for the rest”.
The appeal court did agree to the “exceptional” course of suspending the sentence for 12 months after hearing that time in prison would hinder Lord Ahmed’s work building bridges between the Muslim world and others.
He was freed after serving 16 days in jail. Martyn Gombar, a 28-year-old Slovakian, was killed on Christmas Day in 2007 after his stationary car was hit by Lord Ahmed’s Jaguar on the M1 near Sheffield. A lengthy police investigation established that the peer sent and received a series of five substantial text messages while travelling at up to 70mph during an 18-mile southbound journey on the motorway.
The final message was sent less than two minutes before the fatal collision. Because no causal link could be established between the crash and Lord Ahmed’s texts, the peer was not charged with causing death by dangerous driving. He faced the lesser offence of dangerous driving and pleaded guilty at Sheffield Magistrates’ Court in December 2008.
The district judge adjourned the case to Sheffield Crown Court because he felt that his sentencing powers for the offence, up to six months in jail, were insufficient.
The maximum sentence for dangerous driving is two years. Passing a 12-week sentence at the Crown Court in February 2009, Mr Justice Wilkie told Lord Ahmed that he was guilty of “prolonged bad driving involving deliberate disregard for the safety of others”.
It was, the judge said, “of the greatest importance that people realise what a serious offence dangerous driving of this type is”.
In his TV interview, thought to have been broadcast in April last year, Lord Ahmed claimed that he should have been sentenced by a magistrate. “My case became more critical because I went to Gaza to support Palestinians. My Jewish friends who own newspapers and TV channels opposed this,” he said.
He alleged that Jewish-owned media organisations placed pressure on the courts to charge him with a more serious offence. He claimed that when the case was sent to the Crown Court for sentencing, no Crown Court judge, circuit judge or Recorder would agree to deliver his punishment. Instead, a High Court judge was sent from London.
Mr Justice Wilkie was alleged in Lord Ahmed’s interview to have risen to his elevated position after playing a role during Mr Blair’s premiership in “an important case involving a Jewish colleague of ours”.
It seems possible that Lord Ahmed was referring to the fact that Mr Justice Wilkie granted the Attorney-General an injunction against the BBC during the loans-for-peerages scandal, in which Lord Levy, then Labour’s chief fundraiser, had a prominent role.
The injunction, however, was granted in 2007, three years after Sir Alan Fraser Wilkie, a circuit judge since 1997, was appointed to the Queen’s Bench Division of the High Court.
At the time of Lord Ahmed’s sentencing in 2009 he was the Presiding Judge of the north-eastern circuit, which includes Sheffield Crown Court, and sat on many big cases in courts across the region.
Katie Wheatley, a criminal law expert and partner at the London solicitors’ firm Bindmans, said that if Lord Ahmed had made such claims in Britain he could have faced prosecution for a hate crime.
“If these words had been spoken or broadcast publicly to an audience in the UK it is certainly possible that they could lead to an investigation as to whether an offence of incitement to racial hatred under the Public Order Act 1986 had been committed,” she added.
Ms Wheatley said that the Act did not allow for prosecutions for such offences when they occurred abroad.
Nazir Ahmed, who grew up in Rotherham and ran a number of shops in the town, was an elected Labour councillor who was made a life peer by Mr Blair in 1998 and has since become one of Britain’s most prominent Muslim political leaders.
He said yesterday that he had “no recollection” of giving the TV interview last year. “I’ve done a lot of interviews. If you’re saying that you have seen this footage then it may be so but I need to see the footage and I need to consult with my solicitors before I make any comments in relation to this,” he added.
The Times sent a transcript of Lord Ahmed’s comments in Pakistan to his solicitor, at the peer’s request, but no further response was provided.