Talha Ahsan, the British man extradited to the US on terror charges, is spending 23 hours a day in solitary confinement, his brother has revealed.
Hamja Ahsan told the Huffington Post UK he is concerned for his brother's welfare after receiving a letter from the high security prison in Connecticut where Talha is currently being held.
Hamja, who is from Tooting said the family had their first letter home two days ago, dated October 23. He said he doesn't know why it has taken more than three weeks for it to arrive, adding "it could be because of Hurricane Sandy or perhaps its part of the prison regime."
He said Talha seemed "accepting of his fate" in the letter and said he was reading the New Testament and The Brothers Karamazov. He noted that by that time he had already been in solitary confinement for more than two weeks (federal law requires no suspect be kept in solitary longer than 19 days), adding:
"I suppose they use pre-trial solitary confinement to break people down as a kind of slow legalised torture, so they go for plea bargains."
Talha Ahsan before he was imprisoned
Hamja described Talha's tone as "stoical" but said "he's writing to my parents so he's not going to write anything too distressing."
However he said it's "extremely difficult for our family and its psychological hell for mum and dad. They’re quite elderly too."
In the letter Talha asks about Gary McKinnon, the British Asperger's sufferer who was wanted by the United States for hacking into the Pentagon computer system.
Parallels have been drawn between Gary and Talha, as they both suffer from Asperger's Syndrome. However Theresa May blocked the extradition of Gary McKinnon on the basis that, as someone who suffers from Asperger's Syndrome, he will be a suicide risk.
Protesters outside the court prior to the extradition ruling
However Hamja said as Talha does not receive British news he will be "oblivious" to the latest developments, which include the announcement of a forum bar less than a months after Talha was extradited.
A forum bar would mean a court hearing has to be held to decide whether a person should stand trial in the UK or abroad. There is speculation it could have helped Talha Ahsan's case, whose alleged crimes were committed in Britain.
Talha Ahsan lost a last-ditch bid to avoid extradition to the US in September, along with Babar Ahmad and three others, including Abu Hamza.
Hamja and his father gave a statement after the extradition ruling
Abu Hamza has been convicted in the UK of charges including soliciting to murder and stirring up racial hatred, while Ahsan has been detained for six years without trial and his co-accused Babar Ahmad has been detained since 2004, the longest time a British national has been in custody without trial in modern times.
Hamja explained how his family wasn't even able to say goodbye as they weren't told when Talha would be leaving.
"We saw him on Thursday and we’d booked to see him again on Sunday, but he’d already been put on a plane. None of the families knew. When we saw the plane on the evening news bulletin that’s when we found out. We still have all his belongings in plastic bags [from prison in England]."
Hamja also said he was worried as he hadn't had a phone call home from Talha. He said he was concerned and could only speculate why this was the case.
If Talha is found guilty he could be moved to a US supermax prison, where solitary confinement is a employed as standard practice. Human rights campaigners have raised concerns over prisoners' mental health in such stark facilities.
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