'Criminal in uniform': Senior London policeman jailed for attempting to frame Iraqi

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Monday, February 8, 2010

Commander Ali Dizaei of London's Metropolitan Police Service today became the most senior officer anywhere in the United Kingdom to be convicted of offences by a court. Dizaei, who was branded a "criminal in uniform" by Independent Police Complaints Commission chair Nick Hardwick, has been jailed for four years after he attempted to frame an Iraqi businessman.

It took a Southwark Crown Court jury under three hours to find Dizaei guilty of misconduct in a public office and attempting to pervert the course of justice. The charges carried a maximum of life imprisonment.

Dizaei, 47, who is head of the National Black Police Association, had gone to the Yas Persian restaurant, run by one of his friends, and taken his wife Shy with him. They then went to their car and struck up a conversation through its open window with the restaurant's manager. During this conversation they were approached by Waad al-Baghdadi, an Iraqi website designer in his twenties. He requested that Dizaei pay £600 that he owed Baghdadi, who had constructed his website.

According to the Crown, this dispute had been ongoing for months and Dizaei had been attempting to intimidate Baghdadi. He told the Iraqi to depart when he entered the restaurant; although the businessman did, he stayed nearby and rang the 999 emergency number.

The exact content of the argument that led up to this is unclear. Dizaei and his wife testified that Baghdadi was abusive and threatening, telling the officer he would "extract the money out of your throat" while the owner of the Yas said he was "a crook basically... His history ... everybody knows he's not a good gentleman," said owner Sohrab Eshragi. Eshragi said that the request Baghdadi leave the premises was due to concerns of trouble, claiming Baghdadi had been in a previous fight. Baghdadi denied the allegations and the court rejected Dizaei's version of events.

Cquote1.svg Everybody knows he's not a good gentleman Cquote2.svg

—Restaurant owner's description of the man arrested by Dizaei

While Baghdadi was making his emergency call, Dizaei arrested him and made a 999 call of his own. He requested assistence from other officers, and said that Baghdadi had assaulted him by stabbing his stomach with a shisha pipe. He maintained this account when police arrived and kept it up in written statements, but although Baghdadi was found to be carrying such a pipe examination of Dizaei's wounds by a police doctor concluded he had inflicted them upon himself.

A Home Office pathologist questioned this finding for the defence. Dr. Nat Cary said it was based on a "fundamentally flawed approach," and that the injuries were consistent with Dizaei's version of events. He has helped investigate the assassination of former Pakistani PM Benazir Bhutto, and the death newspaper seller Ian Thomlinson, the latter of whom died during a G20 protest.

The Crown further alleged that Dizaei told Baghdadi "I'll fuck your life... You think I don't know what you do in London... I'll find every single detail of your life in London." The prosecution case was presented by Peter Wright QC, who has prosecuted in trials over serial murders of Suffolk sex workers and a plot to bomb transatlantic airliners. He said that Dizaei's actions were a "wholesale abuse of power by a senior police officer for entirely personal and oblique motives."

Judge Justice Simon said that Dizaei had committed a "grave breach of public trust" and told him "This sentence needs to send a clear message that police officers of whatever rank are not above the law." A Crown Prosecution Service spokesman said outside the court that "He abused his power and ignored his responsibility," and that while corruption was unacceptable in any police officer it was particularly so in a senior member of the forces. "The public should have confidence that we will prosecute anyone, regardless of their position, if they commit serious offences. We believe justice has been served for the victim and the public."

Cquote1.svg The greatest threat to the reputation of the police service is criminals in uniform like Dizaei Cquote2.svg

—Nick Hardwick of the Independant Police Complaints Commission

"[I]f he [Dizaei] had been successful, Mr al-Baghdadi may have been sent to prison," noted Hardwick. "Mr al-Baghdadi has shown tremendous strength of character throughout this case ‑ from the moment he was confronted by Ali Dizaei, throughout our investigation, and finally when giving evidence at court. We are grateful for the confidence he placed in the IPCC and, as a result of that, justice has been done today."

Dizaei has been a policeman for 24 years, and at one stage was rumoured to be destined to take control of the Metropolitan Police, although the Metropolitan Police Authority may now choose to end this career. His trial, which began this month, is his second this decade. He was prosecuted in 2003 but cleared of any wrongdoing. The incident with Baghdadi was in June 2008 and Dizaei has been suspended on full pay since September of that year. Hardwick said that "The greatest threat to the reputation of the police service is criminals in uniform like Dizaei."


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