Help to free Talha Ahsan

Talha Ahsan in the mainstream media

The British mainstream media had almost completely ignored Talha Ahsan throughout the duration of the 6 year long campaign to prevent his extradition. After smearing and vilifying him as a terrorist alongside Abu Hamza, who was also extradited on the same day, it has now gone into overdrive by making Theresa May look like a hero for blocking the extradition of Gary McKinnon. This is one of the most insidious instances of double standards in reporting.

One of the few positive pieces of coverage from the mainstream media was by Channel 4 News which specifically makes a serious comparison between the situations surrounding Talha Ahsan and Gary McKinnon. "However, questions do need to be asked as to why within the space of two weeks, a British citizen with Asperger's accused of computer related activity is not extradited, while two other British citizens, one with Asperger's, engaged in computer related activity are extradited."

A European Court of Human Rights hearing in March 2012 said that before Talha Ahsan was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome, "a psychiatrist had predicted a high risk of serious depression leading to suicide if the third applicant (Ahsan) were to be extradited and placed in solitary confinement for a long period."

Talha Ahsan also submitted to the European court a statement from an American criminologist which detailed the "heightened difficulties experienced by those with Asperger's syndrome in federal prisons and the absence of proper facilities within the Bureau of Prisons to treat the condition".

A similar comparison was made in a comment in the Independent. "Why do politicians, celebrities and the media flock to Gary McKinnon's cause but stay silent about the likes of Talha Ahsan from Tooting?".

"The timing of Theresa May's intervention in the Gary McKinnon case is cynical in the extreme. It certainly isn't lost on many members of the Muslim community that Mrs May waited until after Talha Ahsan, his co-accused Babar Ahmad and three other terrorism suspects including hook handed hate preacher Abu Hamza were locked up Stateside before she halted McKinnon's extradition and announced plans to bring in a so-called 'forum bar'".

"McKinnon - who admits his hacking offences - has often been portrayed as a harmless computer geek who simply went on a few cyber wanderings to discover whether the United States was hiding evidence of extra-terrestrial life. The indictment against him tells a different story. American prosecutors say that between February 2001 and March 2002 he penetrated 81 military and 16 Nasa computers, stole documents and passwords, and even managed to shut down an entire Washington-based military network for 24 hours, causing $700,000 (£350,000) worth of damage".

"There is already a powerful perception among many black and ethnic minority groups that the scales of justice are tipped against them. The Government's unedifying double standards when it comes to extradition has done little to dispel that belief".

Alex MacDonald, a freelance journalist and film maker, writes in the Huffington Post "Theresa May's actions here are merely a cheap gesture to the public while she allows the 2003 Extradition Act (which even former home secretary David Blunkett now regrets implementing) to force many more British citizens to be shuttled across the pond without evidence for brutal treatment at the hands of American justice; if Talha Ahsan comes to harm as a result of his autism, I certainly hope that people will be quick to point out the home secretary's hypocrisy".

There has been negligible coverage of Babar Ahmad and Talha Ahsan in the American media during the years whilst they were awaiting extradition. This probably makes it safe to say that in the minds of almost all Americans they are insignificant and unheard of people as opposed to high profile and much wanted terrorists of the Bin Laden variety. Only after Talha Ahsan was on the plane to the US did the American media start to report on him.

Despite the near silence so far from Transatlantic news sources, possibly the most damning criticism of the decision of the ECHR approving the extradition of Babar Ahmad and Talha Ahsan is published in The Nation, an American weekly political news magazine. This article is more detailed and hard-hitting than anything from the British media as it also exposes the brutal conditions inside supermax prisons.

Continue reading - Asperger syndrome in more detail

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