Help to free Talha Ahsan

Who is Talha Ahsan?

Talha Ahsan is a British citizen born in London in 1979. He was educated at Dulwich College, and later, the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) at the University of London where he received a first class honours degree in Arabic.

He has been diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome like the high profile extradition case Gary McKinnon. 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". His mother describes him as "a serious, bookish young man... a very gentle, softly spoken and thoughtful boy."

Early in 2006 the Metropolitan Police searched his family home in Tooting, south London under a warrant issued under the Crime (International Co-operation) Act 2003 and the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. In July 2006 he was arrested in the UK under a provisional warrant and extradition proceedings were commenced in respect of him under the Extradition Act 2003. In the week of his arrest he had job interviews to train as a librarian. He has since been detained for over 6 years in British prisons without trial on allegations relating to association with a foreign jihad website.

Talha Ahsan is a very keen poet who has received acclaim from novelist A.L. Kennedy amongst others. While being incarcerated he continues to write highly praised poetry. In 2012 he won the Platinum Award for his poem "Grieving" at the Koestler awards (the annual nationwide prisoner arts award), and a further Bronze award for his poetry collection of the same title.

Why is he in prison?

Talha Ahsan was arrested at his home in Tooting, South London on 19 July 2006 in response to a request from the USA under the Extradition Act 2003. This does not require the presentation of any prima facie evidence beforehand nor does it require one to have previously stood trial in a British court of law.

He is accused by the US Authorities of various felonies - including providing support to terrorists and conspiracy to kill, kidnap, maim or injure persons or damage property in a foreign country, and or to murder and attempt to murder US nationals abroad - arising out of an alleged involvement with the websites owned by Azzam Publications, one of which happened to be located on a server in the United States. This is despite the fact that the Azzam Publications websites closed down in 2001 before the Extradition Act came into force.

The only allegations against Talha Ahsan are contained within a remarkably evidence-light 14-page indictment filed at a court in Connecticut. But that has been enough to keep him behind bars for the past 6 years.

Hearings in the UK to determine his suitability for extradition to the US began in November 2006, and on the 14th June 2007 the UK Secretary of State ordered his extradition. Consequently an appeal was lodged by him to the UK High Court. It was refused on the 10th April 2008. After his appeal to the House of Lords was rejected in May 2009 he then appealled to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. On the 10th of April 2012 the ECHR approved his extradition and from that date he had 3 months in which to appeal the ruling to the Grand Chamber of the ECHR.

On the 24th of September 2012 it was announced that Babar Ahmad and Talha Ahsan had lost their bid for appeal at the Grand Chamber of the ECHR. The court's highest judges said they would not re-open his case. The decision meant that the extradition of several men, wanted for years by the US, was likely to happen within weeks. The Home Office welcomed the decision, saying it would ensure the extradition of Talha Ahsan happened as quickly as possible.

Following this decision last ditch attempts of a private prosection by a businessman and a final request for a judicial review at the High Court were undertaken in order to secure a trial in a British court, but they were unsuccessful because of the lack of evidence possessed by the Crown Prosecution Service.

Talha Ahsan has never been arrested or questioned by British police, and despite repeated requests, he has never been allowed to stand trial in a British court.

What is 'Supermax'?

Imagine being confined in a 75.5 sq 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.

Virtually all of an ADX prisoner's daily activities occur within the confines of his single cell. Food is delivered through a slot in the door, and he eats his meals alone. He receives educational and religious programming - and some medical care - through a black and white television in his cell. When an inmate is moved outside his cell, he is shackled behind the back, and subject to a strip search.

His cell window looks out onto the concrete pit that serves as an outdoor recreation area. The sun is never visible. Prisoners at ADX rarely have contact with any other living thing, except the gloved hands of the correctional officers. Prisoners never touch soil, see plant life or view the surrounding mountains.

Prisoners in ADX receive one 15 minute social telephone call per month. Any call that is "accepted" (even by an answering machine) is considered "completed" regardless of the duration. Visits with family members are separated by a glass screen with only a telephone to speak through. The inmate is shackled throughout the visit.

In 2006, the UN 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.'

According to Wikipedia, the majority of inmates at ADX have been sent there because they have an extensive history of committing violent crimes against corrections officers and fellow inmates in other prisons, up to and including murder! This is no place for a vulnerable and sensitive individual with Asperger syndrome who has no previous history of violent behaviour.

Continue reading - How does Asperger syndrome affect him?

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