Help to free Talha Ahsan

The extradition

In the afternoon of Friday the 5th October 2012 the High Court refused a request for a judicial review into his case. All opportunities to prevent the extradition had now been exhausted. The extradition proceeded very swiftly. A police convoy arrived at HMP Long Lartin, near Evesham, in Worcestershire at 6:30 PM to transport Talha Ahsan - and four others who's judicial reviews were also refused that same day - to RAF Mildenhall in Suffolk where a plane had been parked on the runway since Tuesday to transport them to the US.

After the plane took off at midnight, Theresa May gave a statement which included "This government has co-operated fully with the courts and pressed at every stage to ensure this happened. We have worked tirelessly, alongside the US authorities, the police and the prison service, to put plans in place so that tonight these men could be handed over within hours of the court's decision. It is right that these men, who are all accused of very serious offences, will finally face justice". Some critics have argued that the preparations made in advance indicate that the government already knew what verdict was going to be on Friday afternoon, and more worrying, that the judiciary is not independent from the executive.

Our verdict on the decision to extradite Talha Ahsan to the US is a disgrace to British justice. It appears that every legitimate democratic avenue had been used to prevent him from being extradited and put on trial in Britain. The entire case raises serious questions about the fairness of justice in Britain and Europe.

Another cause for concern is the unkind coverage by the mainstream media which has adopted a strategy of continuously describing Talha Ahsan as a terrorism suspect and lumping him into the same articles as the controversial preacher Abu Hamza. Even the BBC (which is supposed to be impartial and acknowledge innocence until proven guilty) is using the same language. In a climate where politicians and the media take such a hostile stance then justice is at risk. The media coverage of Gary McKinnon has been quite positive and sympathetic in comparison.

The legal representatives

A notable complication of extraditing a suspect to the US is that they will require American legal representatives. They can no longer use their existing British lawyers to defend them in American courts because most British lawyers are unable to practice law in the US as they are not licensed to and few have an in depth knowledge of the American legal system.

The American lawyers representing Talha Ahsan are Joshua Dratel of Dratel & Mysliwiec, P.C. and Richard Reeve of Sheehan and Reeve.

A clear line of communication between his American lawyers and his legal team back in Britain is essential. It will be a disaster for justice if secrecy measures are imposed on forthcoming trials. This is particularly important for Talha Ahsan because his Asperger syndrome will have a significant affect on his responses and reactions if unfamiliar material is put forwards to him whilst in a tense situation and he is expected to quickly provide an answer.

The pre-trial hearings

On the 6th October 2012 Talha Ahsan pleaded not-guilty before US District Judge Janet C. Hall in a pre-trial hearing held at a federal district court in New Haven, Connecticut. He spoke so softly during the trial that the judge asked him to speak louder at one point.

The case is being prosecuted by a team of federal prosecutors including Assistant United States Attorney Stephen Reynolds from the United States Attorney's Office for the District of Connecticut and Attorneys Sharon Lever and Alexis Collins from the National Security Division's Counter-Terrorism Section of the US Department of Justice in Washington.

In the press release by the US Attorney's Office - District of Connecticut, US Attorney Fein stressed that an indictment is not evidence of guilt. Charges are only allegations, and each defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

If convicted of the charges, Talha Ahsan face maximum terms of imprisonment of life.

A second pre-trial hearing took place on the 15th October 2012 at a federal district court in New Haven where Talha Ahsan also pleaded not guilty. Judge Janet C. Hall set the 21st October 2013 as a trial date for both Talha Ahsan and Babar Ahmad. Prosecutors want Talha Ahsan and Babar Ahmad to be tried together. Their lawyers haven't taken a position.

Continue Reading - The pre-trial detention

Print  Print