London, July 4: The Indian doctor arrested in Liverpool, named as 26-year-old Sabeel Ahmed, was disabled with a Taser gun, it emerged today.
This suggests that Merseyside police considered him to be a possible suicide bomber and were not prepared to take any sort of risk with him.
The American-built Taser gun, which emits a 50,000-volt, does not kill in theory (though it has proved fatal in some circumstances) but human rights groups like Amnesty International have been unhappy about its use by British police.
The Taser was fired on Ahmed outside the Adelphi Hotel near Lime Street station on Saturday evening.
It is considered a less lethal option than firing on a suspected suicide bomber, which is what Scotland Yard did — and repeatedly — on the “Asian” looking man at Stockwell police station on July 22, 2005. Only, he turned out to be the totally innocent 27-year-old Brazilian electrician, Jean Charles de Menezes.
Since that appalling case of mistaken identity, police have become much more conscious of the need for certainty before using firearms. Hence, use of the Taser has become more frequent.
If Ahmed turns out to be innocent — and India House was today, under instructions from Pranab Mukherjee, getting round to seeking information about him — his lawyers may take up the use of the Taser against him.
More details will emerge about Ahmed who is said to have trained originally at the Rajiv Gandhi University of Health Sciences in Bangalore. He works at hospitals in Halton and Warrington, which are in the surrounding Cheshire countryside.
|Sabeel Ahmed (top), the Bangalorean held in UK, and his friend Mohammad Haneef, who was detained in Brisbane
Ahmed has been linked with Mohammed Haneef, 27,who was arrested in Brisbane as he was about to fly to India.
Haneef and Ahmed may have worked at the same time at the Royal Liverpool Hospital, though this has not been confirmed.
The Taser guns, pioneered in America in the 1970s, deliver a five-second 50,000- volt charge. In September 2004, following a year-long trial, the Home Office announced that all firearms officers in England and Wales would be allowed to use the Taser.
“Tests have shown that the Taser is very effective while the charge is being applied,” according to Assistant Chief Constable of Merseyside police Mick Giannasi.
“It reduces the risk to officers, offenders and members of the public because it can be fired from a distance and is an alternative to a firearm. It is a strong visual deterrent that does not cause serious injury and has no lasting physical effects.”
Giannasi, whose jurisdiction includes Liverpool, said: “The Taser, along with the plastic baton round, is a less lethal option and in no way replaces the conventional firearm. Armed response teams will now have the option to use Tasers as part of a range of equipment to diffuse a difficult situation.”
However, Amnesty argues Tasers should be treated as “potentially lethal weapons” and be subject to the same restrictions as conventional firearms.
Amnesty International’s UK director, Kate Allen, pointed out: “Tasers have been used in the US against pregnant women, unruly schoolchildren and mentally ill people. In some cases, simply walking away from a police officer has led to people getting a 50,000-volt electric shock. Is this a glimpse into the future of UK policing'”
The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) said it shared Amnesty’s concerns and accepted there were “inherent dangers” in their use.
The chairman of the IPCC, Nick Hardwick, commented: “The IPCC supports the use of Tasers as less lethal options for trained firearms officers only. If the option is to shoot somebody dead or use a Taser, we back the use of the Taser every time.”
This is an opinion with which Dr Sabeel Ahmed would probably agree.