Why, in the face of the evidence, does Jeremy Corbyn believe in the innocence of Jawad Botmeh?
“Jawad’s case is, I believe, a miscarriage of justice.” That’s how Jeremy Corbyn described the conviction of Jawad Botmeh, sentenced to 20 years in prison for terrorist offences in 1996, in a letter two years ago to London Metropolitcan University.
There is a chasm of difference between “miscarriage of justice” and failing to get off on a technicality. That difference seems lost on Corbyn. Botmeh and co-defendant Samar Alami were arrested after car bomb attacks in London in 1994 at the Israeli Embassy and the headquarters of a Jewish organisation. Twenty people were injured. Botmeh and Alami were caught with bombs, bomb-making equipment, guns and ammunition. They admitted that, and having the matériel, expertise and books to make explosives. They said they had been experimenting with bomb-making and bomb delivery but the planned use was outside the UK and they had no connection to the London bombings.
There was however ample evidence connecting them to the bombings, as was noted by the Court of Appeal, but Corbyn and his friends question this. They say there are question marks over disclosure and evidence covered by Public Interest Immunity Certificates connected to national security. Those arguments were considered, several times, by judges at the High Court and Court of Appeal, culminating in a judgment by three senior judges finding the convictions safe. The European Court of Human Rights also, unanimously, found no issue with the trial. But let us suppose an appeal had revealed serious concerns with public immunity or disclosure, what then? Would we have seen Botmeh and Alami outside the Court of Appeal with cheering supporters, including Corbyn, taking them off for a celebratory lunch before resuming their worthy activism?
Of course not. They were bomb-makers, caught with bombs and guns. They admitted as much. They would have gone to prison for a very long time for that. By what moral gymnastics could that be said to be a “miscarriage of justice”, making them people to be celebrated?
Jeremy Corbyn knows all of that. Which means either he feels because Botmeh and Alami were targeting people he found politically repellent, they ought not to be blameworthy, which would mean his moral values are utterly corrupted; or he is so fixed on a technicality that it has blinded him to all other elements of the case, which would mean that the new Labour leader is incapable of complex decision-making.
He told Iranian state broadcaster Press TV that Osama bin-Laden ought to have been brought to trial rather than shot: “The solution has got to be law.” Yet in a case where, at every stage of appeal, the law is found to have been correctly, appropriately and fairly applied, when Corbyn doesn’t like the decision he chooses to undermine the institution.