Help to free Talha Ahsan

Freedom at last

The eight year long tribulation of Talha Ahsan is now finally coming to an end. On the 16th July 2014 the final sentencing took place at the Richard Lee courthouse in New Haven, Connecticut under the auspices of Judge Janet C. Hall who challenged the prosecutors in fundamental and unprecedented ways. In an extraordinary decision, Hall declared Talha Ahsan a FREE man. He received a time served verdict for the eight years he has served in pre-trial detention. This is the best possible outcome in the plea bargain he made in December 2013.

"There is no way to rationalize the sentences" the government had recommended, Hall said. At least not based on claims that two men promoted "violent jihad" and provided what is known as "material support" for terrorists. "In my view, jihad does not equal terrorism. In a perversion of what Islam teaches, terrorists have misappropriated the concept of jihad from its true meaning – struggle. But jihad is not what happened on 9/11".

Hall even went as far as to praise the goodness of Talha Ahsan's character, and she said that he wasn't a threat to anyone.

In contrast, the prosecutor's case turned out to be very weak and Al Qaeda link was proven to be bogus. When prosecutors noted Azzam.com had republished Osama bin Laden's 1996 declaration of war against the US, Hall said the New York Times had as well. The court was shown a gruesome video, available on Azzam.com, of a Chechen militant committing war crimes. Hall said that the US government also commits war crimes. This confirmed that many of the allegations made by the Home Office and British government - like when Theresa May said that "these are very dangerous men" - were completely false from the outset.

After sentencing Talha Ahsan was transferred from the Northern Correction Institution in Connecticut to immigration custody at Franklin County Jail in Greenfield, Massachusetts where he is awaiting repatriation back home to Britain. Apparently there is a complication resulting from his passport expiring a few years ago. The potential of passports expiring during pre-trial detention whilst awaiting extradition without any facility to renew them from inside prison is yet another factor that has not been properly taken into account when the Extradition Act was implemented.

We can all finally look forward to Talha Ahsan returning home. His terrible journey has now ended. He should never have been extradited in the first place. If he had been allowed to stand trial in a British court of law back in 2006 it would have spared him from eight years of pain and suffering in incarceration. For the family of Talha Ahsan the eight years could not have been anything short of a living nightmare. Hopefully something positive will emerge from this unique, but otherwise highly distressing, case where the unjust and dysfunctional extradition laws come under serious scrutiny by the British government, and ultimately, re-written.

The management of Asperger Home Education unanimously agree that Theresa May should fall on her sword and immediately resign as Home Secretary following the outcome of the extradition case.

Commentaries on the outcome

David Bermingham (extradited to the US in 2006 as one of the Natwest Three) who has campaigned for reform of the UK-US Extradition Treaty 2003 was delighted with the news:

"I'm delighted that finally both Babar and Talha can finally put this terrible episode behind them and move on with their lives. It was gratifying that the judge was able to cut through the prejudice and hyperbole of the prosecutors and see these men for the devout, studious men that they are. This has been a very sad episode for all concerned."

Moosa Arendt writes in his article The Homecoming of Babar Ahmad and Talha Ahsan on the Islamic Human Rights Commission website

"Moreover, it is a matter of concern that a governing class, which celebrates the separation of powers between the judiciary and the executive, finds ways to circumvent the judicial process when judges make inconvenient decisions. What is worrisome is that not all judges are prepared to look at the evidence. It took judge Janet Hall to tell to US prosecutors that if the two activists were guilty of aiding and providing material of support to Osama bin Laden by publishing his declaration of war on their website then so should the mainstream media including the newspaper of record in the USA. This case has exposed the diarrohea of some judges in Europe when it comes to resisting the erosion of the rights of citizens by their governments".

Asim Qureshi of Cage, who knew Talha Ahsan (as a friend at SOAS University) and Babar Ahmad (as a family friend), personally writes that last week's sentences went against the grain of what we have come to expect from the War on Terror.

"The result we received, was something that is almost unimaginable due to the climate in the US".

"While we accept that the entire system in the US for convicting terrorism suspects is completely flawed, we must also accept that in the environment that exists there, this was not just a victory, it was a complete vindication".

Andy Worthington mentions Talha Ahsan and Babar Ahmad in the Al Jazeera article Britain's Latest Counterterrorism Disasters

"The UK government also needs questioning about its treatment of Babar Ahmad, a computer specialist, and Talha Ahsan, a poet who has Asperger's Syndrome".

"What the UK and US governments both need to do now is to make sure that no one else is pointlessly extradited like Babar Ahmad and Talha Ahsan".

"It is to be hoped that the belated nod towards fairness in the sentences handed down by Judge Hall in Connecticut will have repercussions in the UK that cause the government to think very carefully about its counterterrorism policies".

Caroline Lucas MP says "I am so pleased for Talha, his friends and his family that they are, at long last, to be reunited. This case has highlighted the extent to which a British citizen's fundamental rights can be breached if the US so decides. It highlights the grave flaws in UK law, such as on extradition and on detention without trial. And it highlights the amazing resilience of the human spirit, the determination to fight for justice and freedom. Talha has gone through a horrendous ordeal, including conditions in a US jail that equate to torture. I wish him the very best as he decides how best to rebuild his life, surrounded by those who love him dearly".

The sentencing has received minimal coverage in the American mainstream media and much of what has been published is written from a rather hostile perspective.

CounterPunch concisely summarises the entire history of events from Talha's arrest in 2006 to being granted his freedom in an article aptly titled "The Terrorist that Wasn't".

"What happened next is a study in America's ability to ride roughshod over Europe's sovereign governments and its international human rights apparatus. It also showcases the U.S. justice system’s willingness, in its prosecution of terrorism cases, to rewrite history, distort Islam, inflate evidence, and manufacture threats where they quite clearly do not exist."

Our commentary on the extradition of Gary McKinnon

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