Saturday, 24 February 2024

BBC Journalist's Involvement in Somali Rapist's Deportation Case Raises Questions

BBC Journalist's Involvement in Somali Rapist's Deportation Case Raises Questions
Sunday, 19 November 2023 23:08

"Controversy Surrounds BBC Journalist's Role as Expert Witness in Somali Rapist's Deportation Case"

The involvement of Mary Harper, the BBC's Africa editor, as an expert witness in the deportation case of Yaqub Ahmed, a convicted Somali rapist, has sparked controversy. According to The Mail on Sunday, Harper was hired by Ahmed's lawyers to provide evidence in an attempt to block his deportation to Somalia. This isn't the first time Harper has testified in immigration cases, having reportedly given evidence in at least seven other cases, including one involving a Somali individual convicted of sexual assault on a deaf teenage girl.

Ahmed, a gang rapist jailed in 2008, had his 2018 deportation halted when passengers on his flight staged a revolt, claiming he would face danger in Somalia. During the 2021 tribunal, Harper argued that Ahmed might be targeted by the terrorist group al-Shabaab for his crimes and could face harassment from Somali security forces. She also suggested he would struggle to find employment in Mogadishu's construction industry due to a lack of skills.

Critics, including former Home Secretary Dame Priti Patel, have raised concerns about the appropriateness of a BBC journalist acting as an expert witness in such a case. Patel called it "appalling" and questioned why the BBC deemed it appropriate. The BBC defended Harper's role, stating that their editorial guidelines don't prohibit staff from acting as expert witnesses as long as they remain objective and impartial. However, questions linger about whether Harper sought permission from the BBC before participating in the case. The controversy adds a layer of complexity to the intersection between journalism, legal proceedings, and ethical considerations.

"Concerns Mount Over BBC Africa Editor's Objectivity in Expert Witness Role"

Mary Harper, the longstanding Africa editor for the BBC, faces scrutiny over her role as an expert witness, a position she has held for nearly 15 years, according to her LinkedIn profile. The controversy emerged as she provided evidence in the deportation case of Yaqub Ahmed, a Somali rapist seeking to remain in the UK.

Raised eyebrows include questions about her objectivity, as immigration judges reportedly expressed concern that she had not thoroughly examined crucial materials related to the appellant's case. The judges noted that her failure to reference prior contradictory tribunal findings raised doubts about the impartiality of her evidence.

Criticism extended to Harper's citation of cases outside Mogadishu, described as "unhelpful" by judges. They disputed her cautionary stance on a charter flight for Ahmed, aligning instead with the Home Office's view that such a transport method would be unconventional for a supposed spy.

This isn't the first instance of criticism against Harper's evidence; in a separate case involving a Somali individual with a criminal history, another judge reportedly criticized her report for lacking objectivity and selective review of available country information.

As of August, Yaqub Ahmed has been reported to have been deported to Somalia. In light of these developments, questions linger over Harper's objectivity and the impact of her expert witness role. Ms. Harper has been contacted for comment on these issues.

"In the midst of the Yaqub Ahmed deportation case, the controversy surrounding Mary Harper, the BBC's Africa editor, deepens as concerns emerge regarding the objectivity of her role as an expert witness. With almost 15 years of service in her position, questions have been raised about her thoroughness in reviewing key materials related to the appellant's case and her failure to reference previous contradictory tribunal findings. The judges in Ahmed's case expressed significant concerns about Harper's evidence, citing similar failings to those previously criticized.

Criticism extends to her citation of cases outside Mogadishu, with judges deeming it 'unhelpful,' and her cautionary stance on a charter flight for Ahmed facing disagreement from the Home Office. This isn't an isolated incident, as reports suggest that another judge criticized Harper's evidence in a separate case for lacking objectivity and providing a selective review of available country information.

As of August, Yaqub Ahmed has reportedly been deported to Somalia. The questions surrounding Harper's objectivity and the impact of her expert witness role linger, raising broader concerns about the intersection of journalism, legal proceedings, and ethical considerations. Ms. Harper has been contacted for comment, further emphasizing the ongoing scrutiny and need for transparency in this complex and contentious matter."

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