Last week, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that six alleged terror suspects could face extradition to the United States. While extensive media coverage have been given to Abu Hamza, who has been convicted of soliciting to murder and stirring up racial hatred and jailed in the UK for seven years, the voices of Babar Ahmad and Talha Ahsan were almost silent.
These men are in a completely different situation from Abu Hamza. While Abu Hamza has been tried and found guilty of terrorism charges in the UK, Babar Ahmad and Talha Ahsan have not. Babar Ahmad is the longest serving British detainee-without-charge, having been held in a high-security prison for eight years.
Babar Ahmad and Talha Ahsan
In December 2003, Babar Ahmad was arrested at his London home under anti-terror legislation. During the time he was arrested upon his arrival at the police station, Babar Ahmad was allegedly brutally assaulted by British police. 73 injuries were recorded, including bleeding in his ears and urine. Six days after his arrest, he was released without charge.
In 2009, the Metropolitan police admitted to assaults and awarded Babar Ahmad £60, 000 in compensation for damages but refused to apologise. In August 2004, Mr. Ahmad was again arrested in London and taken to prison under a controversial no-evidence-required Extradition Act 2003.
The US/UK Extradition laws introduced by the Labour government after 9/11, allows the United States government to extradite UK citizens and others for offences committed against US law, even though the alleged offence may have been committed in the UK by a person living and working in the UK. Although this should work vice versa, the US has always been seen to have the advantage when it comes to this treaty.
The US claims that Babar Ahmad has been using a website to raise funds for terrorism, a claim which he denies.
Talha Ahsan, also a British citizen and who has been diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome, was arrested in 2006 and faces similar allegations to that of Babar Ahmad. He denies any involvement in terrorism. He has been in maximum security prison since 2006 without a trail.
Despite the denial and lack of evidence, Babar Ahmad and Talha Ahsan have not had the right to a trial in the United Kingdom to determine if they are guilty or not.
These men are not exceptional cases. This could happen to any of us.
Free Babar Ahmad
In August 2011, Babar Ahmad's family launched an e-petition demanding that Babar Ahmad be tried in the United Kingdom. A campaign tagged 'British justice for British citizens' attracted close to 150,000 signatures making it eligible for a Full House of Commons Debate in parliament.
From social networks to local mosques to community groups, Free Babar Ahmad posters and printed copies of petitions were widespread. The campaign attracted thousands, both Muslims and non-Muslims because it wasn't calling on Babar Ahmad to be freed; it was calling for him to be given a trail in the UK.
However, the voices of these thousands were ignored by the Government when it refused to debate the case in the House of Commons.
Any one of us could be the next Babar Ahmad
When I first researched the Babar Ahmad case and the US/UK Extradition treaty, I realised that this could happen to any innocent individual. I signed the petition and joined the campaign in my local area to attract signatures. While campaigning, I met a lot of young people, mainly Muslim youth, who believed in the concept of 'British justice for British citizens.'
It wasn't difficult to gather signatures. Once people heard Babar Ahmad's story, they realised it could be them and was enthusiastic about the prospect that their signature could help in unfolding a debate in parliament.
I cannot imagine how these young people, who are already excluded from political involvement, must have felt when parliament ignored their voices and rejected to have a public debate on the case.
A large proportion of Muslim youth already feel that their voices are not heard in Westminster. The failure of the British government to deny these men their basic rights could have only further damper the growing distrust by Muslim communities in mainstream political parties, which I'm sure those 150,000 who signed the petition will be remembering in the next general election.
Babar Ahmad has been locked up for eight years in maximum security without charge. Talha Ahsan has been locked up for five years without charge. Both of these men can now be extradited to the US where they will be held in maximum security, solitary confinement and subject to torture and abuse without any evidence to indict them of their accused crimes.
Whether, you think these men guilty or not, only a fair trial in the UK would determine that. That is the right of every British citizen.
While we preach human rights to many across the world, our own judicial system has failed men like Babar Ahmad and Talha Ahsan. What is even more terrifying is that any one of us could be the next Babar Ahmad or Talha Ahsan under this Extradition Act 2003.