Help to free Talha Ahsan

Asperger syndrome in more detail

The decision of Theresa May to block the extradition of Gary McKinnon resulted from a report by Home Office appointed psychiatrists. Below is the full text from their letter to Gary McKinnon's legal team.


"As you are aware, Mr McKinnon's extradition has been requested by the US Government in relation to computer and fraud charges.

As you know, the statutory process under the Extradition Act 2003 has long ended. The only issue that the Secretary of State is now permitted to address is that which arises under the Human Rights Act 1998, namely whether your client's extradition remains compatible with his human rights, in particular those under Articles 2, 3 and 8.

The gravity of the offences alleged against him, and the strong public interest in the honouring of our extradition arrangements, whilst relevant to any consideration of Article 8, are not relevant to Articles 2 and 3.

The Secretary of State has given the most careful consideration to all of the material, both medical and otherwise, in this difficult and exceptional case. She has concluded that the ordering of your client's extradition, and his subsequent removal, would give rise to such risks to his health, and would, in particular, give rise to such a high risk of him ending his life, that a decision to that effect would be incompatible with his human rights under Article 3.

She has therefore withdrawn the extradition order of 4 July 2006".

Expert advice from psychologists was the one and only factor that resulted in the extradition of Gary McKinnon being halted but it was completely ignored by the Home Secretary for Talha Ahsan. A Home Office spokesman has said that: "Each case is decided entirely on its own merits. Syed Ahsan's case was considered at length by the UK courts and the European Court of Human Rights, which decided that extradition to the United States would not breach his human rights".

However, Gary McKinnon's case was also rejected by the ECHR and in the domestic courts.

Dr Quinton Deeley recommended that Talha Ahsan receive specialist care for his condition after he was diagnosed in 2009: "It should be noted that by virtue of his Asperger's syndrome and depressive disorder, (Talha) is an extremely vulnerable individual who, from a psychiatric perspective, would be more appropriately placed in a specialist service for adults with autistic disorders and co-morbid mental health problems, with a level of security dictated by his risk assessment".

A European Court of Human Rights hearing in March 2012 said that before Talha 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".

An American criminologist 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" in a submission to the ECHR.

A letter published in the British Medical Journal in July 2012 about human rights of prisoners specifically mentions Talha Ahsan and states that "He has been described as an exceptional student with a mental illness that will render him a vulnerable individual in prison. The harsh reality of solitary confinement in the USA would daunt any human being, and with a disability affecting both communication and information processing (as described by the National Autistic Society) this would be unbearable for Talha".

According to a medico legal report in 2009, Ahsan is "an extremely vulnerable individual who from a psychiatric perspective would be more appropriately placed in a specialist service for adults with autistic disorders." If Gary McKinnon is a suicide risk, then surely this equally applies to Talha Ahsan.

In an interview with Amnesty International, Hamja Ahsan said "After seeing the way Christopher Tappin was treated in solitary confinement after extradition, I am extremely worried for my brother. It has been psychological agony for the family, especially our elderly parents. Most prison suicides and self-harm occur in solitary confinement".

Continue reading - Our verdict on the decision

Continue reading - How does Asperger syndrome affect him?

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