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BBC wins High Court battle to film terrorist suspect held without trial

By Hamish Mackay

January 12, 2012 | 2 min read

The BBC has won a highly-significant victory in the High Court - giving it the go-ahead to film a terrorism suspect held for seven years without trial.

The High Court ruled there was public interest in interviewing Babar Ahmad, the British Muslim who denies terror-related charges and is fighting extradition to the US, due to the case's exceptional nature.

The Justice Secretary, Kenneth Clark, had argued an interview was not necessary to inform the public about Ahmad's story.

After the ruling, the Clark he would not be appealing against the verdict and would now begin negotiations with the BBC about how and when the interview would take place.

At the High Court hearing last year, the BBC argued that the Justice Secretary had the power to restrict journalists' access to prisoners - but he had been wrong to turn down an application from reporter Dominic Casciani to film Ahmad.

After yesterday’s verdict, Casciani, who is the BBC’s home affairs correspondent, said: “The European Convention on Human Rights says that journalists have freedom of speech and our courts recognise that the media plays a vital role in reporting matters of public interest.

“It was on that basis that we challenged a decision to stop us interviewing Babar Ahmad. We argued that his case was exceptional and only a broadcast interview would allow the public to hear what he had to say and learn about his story and the way his case has been handled.

“So, this case was about the public's right to know and the Justice Secretary's right to restrict. That's a tough balancing act for any judge.

“The High Court's decision breaks new ground for British journalists - but it does not mean that we could now expect to interview any prisoner we please.”

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