Help to free Talha Ahsan

The pre-trial detention

Talha Ahsan is currently detained at Northern Correctional Institution, the most secure facility in Connecticut, whilst awaiting his forthcoming trial in March 2014.

On the 13th November 2012 the family of Talha Ahsan received his first letter home from prison in the US which was dated 23rd of October. It is unclear why it has taken more than three weeks for it to arrive; possibilities include Hurricane Sandy or the prison regime. In the letter he asks about Gary McKinnon, but is completely unaware that his extradition was blocked, either because he does not have access to British news (American news gave virtually no coverage of the Gary McKinnon case) or because of prison restrictions on what information he is allowed access to. He noted that by that time he had already been in solitary confinement for more than two weeks (Federal Law requires no suspect be kept in solitary confinement longer than 19 days), also adding "I suppose they use pre-trial solitary confinement to break people down as a kind of slow legalised torture, so they go for plea bargains". The event has been reported in the Huffington Post.

At 6:05PM GMT on the 1st December 2012 Talha Ahsan finally managed to phone home. He spoke to his parents but unfortunately his brother Hamja was not in at the time. Hamja spoke to Talha on the 4th December for the very first time since the extradition took place, and he received another phone call from Talha on the 6th December. Talha has received letters from campaigner Bruce Kent, writer Amrit Wilson, and his friends and family.

Hopefully the lines of communication are now open and he is not subject to Special Administrative Measures (SAMS) or a similar incommunicado regime. It is noteworthy that Babar Ahmad, who is also detained at the same prison, managed to phone his family on the 8th of November. The telephone service in the prison is provided by a company called SECURAS and phonecalls to the UK are very expensive. Each 15 minute call costs $14.

His British lawyer Gareth Peirce has described SAMS as "Crippling in every way, not just in terms of ability to prepare a trial".

There is no library in the prison but a small trolley of book is available. Talha Ahsan has read Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky; the New Testament; Noel Coward plays; A Man in Full by Tom Wolfe; and David Thoreau

We consider the length of time that Talha Ahsan has been unable to communicate with his family to be totally unacceptable. There is absolutely no reason to subject him to draconian restrictions on communication with the outside world because no evidence exists that he is in contact with any terrorist organisations or nefarious individuals. He was able to phone home every day and his family visited him on Sunday during the 6 years he was detained in British prisons.

On the 16th December 2012 the family campaign received a hate mail postcard from a stranger in the United States with the message "TALHA DESERVES TO DIE IN AN AMERICAN PRISON CELL. HE WILL!" written in capital letters

Theresa May started her speech at the 2012 Conservative Party Conference with the following irresponsible and misleading statement "Wasn't it great to say goodbye - at long last - to Abu Hamza and those four other terror suspects on Friday? May deliberately dehumanises Talha Ahsan. She still refuses to use his name.

On the 21st February 2012 an illuminating article was published in New Stateman exposing a closed-door meeting held in March 2012 between judges from the ECHR and the US Supreme Court. This adds further evidence that the decision to extradite was planned in advance primarily to help heal strained UK-EU relations. This rather sinister meeting was a very low profile event that escaped coverage in the British mainstream media, and even the management of Asperger Home Education was unaware that such a meeting had taken place before reading the article. A few paragraphs containing the core information about this closed-door meeting are reproduced below as the article is lengthy although it is well worth reading in its entirety.

Of course, another superpower's interests were also at stake in the Ahsan decision. A largely unknown fact about the case is that on March 1 2012, the month before the Ahsan judgement was given, Strasbourg judges - including two members of the Court Chamber who judged on the Ahsan case, Lech Garlicki and Nicolas Bratza - visited Washington to take part in a closed conference with US Supreme Court Justices. The first of its kind, this closed-door conference - Judicial Process and the Protection of Rights: the U.S. Supreme Court and the European Court of Human Rights - brought together members of the Strasbourg Court with Supreme Court Justices Stephen Breyer, Samuel Alito, Anthony Kennedy and Sonia Sotomayor. Also present were the UK government's in-house legal counsellor, Derek Walton, who was representing the UK in Ahsan's European Court case, and the vastly influential Harold Koh, who was serving as Obama's appointed Legal Advisor to the State Department.

There are several things here that raise concern: first, the simple fact that there was a closed-door meeting that included sitting judges of the Strasbourg Court on an open case in which the US was implicated. More concerning still is the fact that the conference discussed "rights protection" - a key issue about to be decided in Ahsan's appeal by the same judges in Strasbourg - and the parallels in rights protection between the US Supreme Court and the Strasbourg Court.

It appears that the judgement of the European Court of Human Rights that there was no Article 3 violation in the Ahsan case was influenced in some way by the unique combination of state pressure from two superpower governments. And it is at least arguable that the Court's decision was based more on diplomatic assurance than on judicial resolution.

The Huffington Post reported on the 15th May 2013 that the trial of Babar Ahmad and Talha Ahsan has been put back until March 2014 due to its size and complexity. Court papers show that in Babar Ahmad's case there are 2 terabytes of electronic material that the authorities seized. It is unclear to the management of Asperger Home Education exactly what this 2 terabytes of data consists of or from where it was obtained. To the best of our knowledge the only data seized by the police were two 1.44 megabyte floppy disks from a desk in Babar Ahmad's house.

On the 11th June 2013 John Goss made a Freedom of Information request to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office about the extradition of Talha Ahsan and communications which have taken place between authorities in the US and the UK. After a long delay the FCO finally replied on the 4th November 2013 saying "Unfortunately, we are still not in a position to provide a substantive response. This is a result of the careful consideration that is required around where the public interest lies in relation to a Section 27 exemption (International Relations)".

Riaz Sobrany made a Freedom of Information request on the 10th October 2013 enquiring about correspondence between the Home Office and the National Autistic Society concerning Talha Ahsan. The request was refused on the grounds of breaching the Data Protection Act 1998 under Section 40(5). A second slimmed-down Freedom of Information request enquiring about correspondence between the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the National Autistic Society concerning Talha Ahsan was made on the 8th December 2013. It was refused because it constitutes a Subject Access Request which can only be made by the individual(s) named as the subject matter.

Continue Reading - The plea bargain

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