I wish I could promise something coherent here - instead, I'll be realistic and just say, this is my attempt to put together a few links/resources that I hope will be helpful in explaining the situation of Talha Ahsan and Babar Ahmad, especially so that people wanting to help can quickly and easily find ways to do so.
I must emphasise, this is just a compilation of things I've found via twitter and Google - I'm no kind of expert at all - the opposite in fact, so I know how difficult it can be to know where to go to find stuff out. I'm also hoping people who know better will correct mistakes I've made, and add further resources that could be helfpul.
The most important thing now is how people can help. Go straight to the What we can do section of this post for details on that.
ECHR ruling - appeals rejectedAs you may already be aware, today the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) was revealed on the appeals against extradition of Babar Ahmad and Talha Ahsan. The ECHR rejected their appeals, meaning that within a few weeks both Talha and Babar Ahmad could be flown to America to be detained in almost constant isolation, in Supermax prisons.
Who are Talha Ahsan and Babar Ahmad?Talha Ahsan
"Talha Ahsan is a British citizen born in London in 1979... His mother describes him as “a serious, bookish young man… a very gentle, softly spoken and thoughtful boy.”
Talha has Asperger Syndrome (a form of autism). In a medico legal report of June 2009, a consultant psychiatrist described him as “an extremely vulnerable individual who from a psychiatric perspective would be more appropriately placed in a specialist service for adults with autistic disorders.”
He is also a keen poet and has received acclaim from novelist A.L. Kennedy amongst others.
Why is he in prison?
Talha Ahsan was arrested at his home on 19 July 2006 in response to a request from the USA under the Extradition Act 2003 which does not require the presentation of any prima facie evidence. He is accused in the US of terrorism-related offences arising out of an alleged involvement over the period of 1997-2004 with the Azzam series of websites, one of which happened to be located on a server in America.
He has never been arrested or questioned by British police, despite a number of men being so from his local area in December 2003 for similar allegations. All of them were released without charge."
Babar Ahmad -
"Babar Ahmad is a 38 year old British Muslim and the longest detained-without-charge British detainee held as part of the global ‘war on terror’.
Babar Ahmad was born in London in May 1974, and, until his imprisonment in 2004, lived in Tooting, South West London. His parents migrated to the UK from Pakistan in the early 1960’s. His father is a retired civil servant and his mother a retired Science teacher.
He went to a reputable public school where he won academic prizes and obtained outstanding results at both GCSE and A-Level. He then went to university and obtained a Master’s degree in Engineering from the University of London. Before his imprisonment in August 2004, he was working in the IT department at Imperial College London.
He is well-known locally in Tooting as a ‘caring and helpful’ member of the community through his years of youth work.
In December 2003 Babar was arrested at his London home under anti-terror legislation. By the time he reached the police station Babar had sustained at least 73 forensically recorded injuries, including bleeding in his ears and urine. Six days later he was released without charge.
Babar then filed a formal complaint that he had been subjected to horrific physical, sexual and religious abuse by the arresting police officers. In March 2009 the Metropolitan Police finally admitted in the Royal Courts of Justice in London that they did indeed carry out the Islamophobic and brutal assault on Babar Ahmad in December 2003. Moreover, they paid Babar Ahmad £60,000 compensation for damages. However, the Metropolitan Police have still offered no apology for the actions of their officers.
You can find out more about Talha Ahsan and his case here: http://freetalha.org/ including a useful timeline of events.In August 2004 Babar was re-arrested in London and taken to prison pursuant to an extradition request from the US under the controversial, no-evidence-required, Extradition Act 2003. The US has alleged that in the 1990s Babar was a supporter of “terrorism”. Babar denies any involvement in terrorism. He has now been in prison for over five years even though he has not been charged in the UK"
Read more about Babar Ahmad and his case here: http://freebabarahmad.com/ again with a helpful timeline of events.
Erroneous link to Abu HamzaMany of the articles about these cases and the ruling start off talking about 'Abu Hamza and others', lumping together all the suspects as though their cases are the same. There is an important distinction: Abu Hamza has been convicted - Talha Ahsan and Babar Ahmad never have been. This is especially unhelpful as the image of Abu Hamza is used, whether intentionally or not, to demonise Talha Ahsan and Babar Ahmad by association.
An example in point*, Jerome Taylor's article for the Independent begins: "Hook handed cleric Abu Hamza and four other Muslim men" and is headed by a close up of Abu Hamza's face. If pictures are to be used, then picture all suspects, not the one with the most controversy surrounding him, thus at best, drowning out the situation for Talha Ahsan and Babar Ahmad, and at worse, associating their cases with that of someone already charged.
(*That said, a few weeks ago Jerome Taylor did write a more specific article regarding Talha Ahsan's case , which he referenced again in a tweet a few hours ago.)
What are Supermax prisons?According to wikipedia:
"In supermax, prisoners are generally allowed out of their cells for only one hour a day (in California state prisons they are allowed out for one-and-a-half hours); often they are kept in solitary confinement. They receive their meals through ports, also known as "chuck holes" or "bean slots," in the doors of their cells. When supermax inmates are allowed to exercise, this may take place in a small, enclosed area where the prisoner will exercise alone"Or, as stated on the Free Talha site:
"Imagine being confined in a 75.5sq feet cell with only a concrete slab and a thin mattress for a bed for 23 to 24 hours a day for every day of your life – the only window three inches wide looking out to a concrete pit…
This is the prospect Talha faces if extradited and convicted in the US – life without parole in solitary confinement at ADX Florence, Colorado...
In 2006, the U.N. Committee Against Torture expressed concern about “prolonged isolation periods” and “the extremely harsh regime” in US Supermax prisons. It is little wonder that the former warden of ADX Florence described the prison as a ‘clean version of hell.’"
Still time to take actionAlthough the ruling seems final, there is still one chance that this extradition can be postponed - there is a call for the Home Secretary to stop extradition until the Director of Public Prosections (DPP) takes on the private prosecution being brought against Talha Ahsan and Babar Ahmad by businessman, Karl Watkins. This private prosecution would mean they were both tried and, if appropriate, imprisoned in the UK, rather than being sent to the US without charge.
Karl Watkin explains his reasons for bringing the private prosecution:
"My sole focus is the public interest that this case represents. Our criminal justice system should deliver on its duty by ensuring that these two British citizens, alleged to have committed very serious crimes in the UK, are tried and, if appropriate, imprisoned here... It is not for the US to deliver universal justice to us all, and such a suggestion should worry us all deeply."
It is still possible to take these two actions, as stated on the Free Babar Ahmad Website:
You can find details on how to do this (including templates which can be easily copied and pasted into emails) on both the Free Talha Ahsan website here and on the Free Babar Ahmad website here.(i) write to the DPP (Director of Public Prosecutions) asking him to take on the private prosecution(ii) request your MP to make similar representations to the DPP
Home Office enquiries If your enquiry is regarding the Home Office then please write to:
Rt Hon Theresa May MP
2 Marsham Street
Telephone number: 020 7035 4848
Correction: Just got an e-mail from Home Office - Apparently this issue is not for them, but for the Crown Prosecution Service. So, direct communications to the Crown Prosecution Service - contact details here. And tweet them also: @cpsuk
The London Chief Crown Prosecutor is Alison Saunders - her contact details:
Chief Crown Prosecutor - Alison Saunders
5th floor, Rose Court
2 Southwark Bridge,
London, SE1 9HS
Tel: 020 3357 0000
Textphone: 18001 020 7796 8000
But if you feel like I do, still keep sending copies to the Home Office. Even if they won't deal with them, at least they still have to see them before transferring.
Not too little, too late - not yetI realise all of this is rather tenuous, and may for some feel like it's just too late, but until Talha Ahsan and Babar Ahmad are on the plane to America, I feel there is still time to take action. In my case, I definitely wish I had done more earlier, but that's no reason to decide it's not worth doing anything now. Every single mail, letter and call can make a difference.
And finally - send messages of supportIt is possible to contact Talha Ahsan and Babar Ahmad directly. You can send messages of support to them by email, via the 'E-mail a prisoner' service. It takes a few minutes to register, but translates to an important reminder that, especially at this time, they have not been forgotten.
You can also show love and support to their families via twitter - the official twitter accounts for Talha (@FreeTalha) and Babar Ahmad (@FreeBabarAhmad) and Talha's brother, Hamja (@HamjaAhsan).