|Latest on Babar Ahmad and Syed Talha Ahsan|
Update: 5th October 2012 – In response to the ruling from the High Court
Following the announcement at the High Court this afternoon the Tooting MP, Rt Hon Sadiq Khan, said: "Family, friends and campaigners of Babar Ahmad and Syed Talha Ahsan are devastated by the judgement at the High Court today.
"The families of my constituents, Babar Ahmad and Syed Talha Ahsan, have worked tirelessly to have them tried in a British court and it would appear that their extradition to American is now imminent.
"It is important to remember that at no stage have my constituents ever fought against standing trial. They understand that they face very serious charges, but they have always believed that it should be in a British court - and not an American one - where they should stand trial.
"The way criminal cases work in America means that Defendants facing a trial are advised to plea bargain. I predict that both my constituents will do the same as all the other British men extradited to the USA have done and plead guilty. It is a big risk pleading "Not Guilty". My understanding is that the consequences of this include the threat of life in solitary confinement without parole, should they lose a trial. If those are the stakes which pleading "Not Guilty" involve then it is no wonder that over 97% of defendants accept a plea bargain - regardless of how confident or determined they are to stand trial.
Update: 4th October 2012 – Sadiq Khan MP meets family of Babar Ahmad at the High Court
As many of you might know, this week has been Labour Party Conference which means that I have been in Manchester for part of this week. Fortunately I was able to withdraw from all of my commitments today, which allowed me to return to London ahead of schedule in order to attend a meeting with Babar Ahmad's father, sister and lawyers at the Royal Courts of Justice today (where there is a hearing into the matter). I invited Talha Ahsan's family to attend the meeting too, but they were unavailable (they are visiting Talha today).
At present, the Judicial Review of the case is continuing and a decision is expected tomorrow (Friday 5th October). Should the Judicial Review rule against Babar Ahmad and Syed Talha Ahsan then they could be extradited immediately
Since my last update (of 1st October, please see below) I have heard back from the Director of Public Prosecution, who has agreed to meet with me to discuss the case against Babar and Talha. However, he is unwilling to meet me until after the case. I have been informed that the CPS have decided not to charge the two in this country.
The Home Secretary replied to my most recent letter and said that she would only promise to suspend the extradition of my constituents’ whist the Judicial Review was outstanding. This means that the moment the Court has ruled, the suspension stops. If the Court challenge fails, there is nothing stopping the men being flown out to USA.
I have continued worked closely with the solicitors representing Babar and Talha this week, and provided them with any assistance they have requested, including forwarding copies of all correspondence I have sent to & received from the British authorities.
I also raised the case during an interview with Eddie Nestor on BBC Radio London (you can hear the interview here -http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00yhjw5 - but please note that the interview starts at 50:30mins, and the part on Babar Ahmad & Talha Ahsan starts at 54:00mins).
I also raised the case on last Friday’s edition of BBC Radio 4’s Any Questions?, which you can listen to here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006qgvj (the extradition question is the first one, and I discuss Babar and Talha from 6:30mins)
Update: 2nd October 2012 – Sadiq Khan MP welcomes the Mayor of London’s support for Babar Ahmad and Syed Talha Ahsan
Rt Hon Sadiq Khan MP said: “I am pleased to hear that the Mayor of London has come out in support of Babar Ahmad and Syed Talha Ahsan. Like me, he shares concerns over the use of the extradition act in these specific cases and believes that my constituents should have their trial held in the UK.”
Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, said: “Clearly the UK-US Extradition Act (2003) is unfairly balanced. In the case of Babar Ahmad if there was a crime committed it was committed in this country. There is absolutely no reason why this gentleman should not be produced before the British courts, arraigned and asked to answer to whatever his crimes are here in the UK. British citizens shouldn't automatically be extradited for trial in America for alleged crimes which didn't all take place there."
Update: 1st October 2012 – Director of Public Prosecution rejects the private prosecution of Babar Ahmad & Syed Talha Ahsan
It has been announced by the Crown Prosecution Service that Keir Starmer QC, the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), has rejected the request from businessman Karl Watkin to hold a private prosecution of Babar Ahmad & Syed Talha Ahsan.
Sadiq Khan MP, Member of Parliament for Tooting, is the local MP for both Babar Ahmad & Syed Talha Ahsan. He has been assisting his constituents ever since he was first elected.
Sadiq Khan MP said: “I am very disappointed by the decision of the DPP. The families of my two constituents are understandably devastated by this news.
“It is still unclear why, if the evidence the American authorities rely upon came from Britain, and at all times the offences were supposed to have been committed occurred when both men were in London, they cannot be charged and tried in the UK”
Sadiq has now written to the DPP again to clarify the timeframe for the remainder of the review into the evidence against Babar Ahmad and Syed Talha Ahsan, and also to ask for a meeting to discuss the cases.
Update: 1st October 2012 – Sadiq Khan MP calls on media to report responsibly on cases of Babar Ahmad and Syed Talha Ahsan
Rt Hon Sadiq Khan MP, Member of Parliament for Tooting, has today called on the media to report responsibly on the extradition case against his constituents Babar Ahmad and Syed Talha Ahsan.
Babar Ahmad and Syed Talha Ahsan have been held in British prisons, without charge, for 7 and 6 years respectfully. They are accused by the American authorities, who want to extradite them to America to stand trial, of participating in terrorist-related activities. Babar Ahmad and Syed Talha Ahsan are fighting the extradition warrant as they believe that they should stand trial in a British court, as they are British citizens alleged to have committed crimes whilst in the UK.
The European Court of Human Rights rejected their latest appeal against the extradition last week. Currently only a private prosecution, launched by businessman Karl Watkin, could prevent the extradition from happening.
Rt Hon Sadiq Khan MP said: "I am calling on all parts of the British media to report responsibily on the extradition case against my constituents, Babar Ahmad and Syed Talha Ahsan
“On too many occasions phrases like 'Abu Hamza and five others' have been used as a shorthand for the six men fighting extradition to the United States, which has conflated my constituents cases with the other – very different – cases, such as the one against Abu Hamza.
“The association of my constituents – who, despite 7 and 6 years in prison, are still to be charged with any crime – with a man convicted of numerous hate and terrorism-related crimes will create doubt around their reasons for their fighting against extradition.
”It is important to remember that Babar Ahmad and Syed Talha Ahsan are very willing to stand trial in the UK. The American authorities are accusing them of committing serious crimes whilst in the UK, backed up with evidence collected by the Metropolitan Police. They are not trying to avoid standing trial; rather they feel that they should be tried in the country where they are accused of committing the crimes – which is also the place where their family and legal representatives are.
“I am not accusing any one news organisation of misrepresenting my constituents as guilty, but it is not right to associate Babar Ahmad and Syed Talha Ahsan with others convicted of terrorist-related charges.
“There are clear differences between the cases against Babar Ahmad and Syed Talha Ahsan and the one against Abu Hamza, and this should always be emphasised to the British public.”
Update: 25th September 2012 - Decision by the European Court of Human Rights to reject request for an appeal
Rt Hon Sadiq Khan MP, who has been campaigning on behalf of both Babar Ahmad and Syed Talha Ahsan since they were first arrested, said: “Many local residents, as well as the family, friends and campaigners of these two men, will be disappointed that Babar Ahmad and Syed Talha Ahsan have not been granted a final appeal by the European Court of Human Rights. The charges they face are serious, and they should face a trial, but this issue has always been about where the trial should be held – in the Britain or in America.
“Both Babar Ahmad and Syed Talha Ahsan are British-born Tooting residents, and as their Member of Parliament I have made numerous efforts to have the evidence against them reconsidered by the British authorities and a trial held in Britain.
“There is still the outstanding issue of the private prosecution which Karl Watkins is bringing against them. I wrote to the Director of Public Prosecution again last week, asking him to review the evidence against Babar Ahmad and Syed Talha Ahsan and if need be retrieve from the American authorities any evidence they may have. I have written again today to the Director of Public Prosecutions asking for an update in light of the possibility of their extradition. There is no point in a decision being made once these two men have been extradited.”
Today, Sadiq Khan MP also met with the Chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee (Rt Hon Keith Vaz MP) at short notice today to urge him to also make further representations to the Director of Public Prosecutions (Keir Starmer) in regards to his constituents Babar Ahmad and Syed Talha Ahsan.
Keith Vaz has agreed to write to the Director of Public Prosecutions, and a copy of this letter can be found below.
Rt Hon Sadiq Khan MP said: “I am grateful that Keith Vaz MP was able to find time to discuss this issue with me today. He does understand the urgency of this matter.
“I am particularly pleased that Keith Vaz MP appreciates the differences in the cases against my constituents, Babar Ahmad and Syed Talha Ahsan, and that of others facing extradition – such as Abu Hamza.”
Overview of Sadiq's work on Babar Ahmad and Syed Talha Ahsan cases
Babar Ahmad and Syed Talha Ahsan are Tooting constituents. Sadiq has been following the cases very closely for a number of years. He has been working closely with the families and their legal representatives, ever since he was first elected in 2005.
Both Babar Ahmad and Syed Talha Ahsan have their own campaign websites, which give details about their arrest, detainment and fight to stand trial in the UK. You can visit Babar’s website here and Talha’s website here.
The Extradition Act 2003 is the piece of legislation under which Babar Ahmad & Syed Talha Ahsan are being extradited to the United States. Sadiq has always had reservations about this legislation, and has publically spoken out about unintended consequences of it ever since he became an MP in 2005. It is important to note that whilst he does not have a problem with the concept of extradition - he strongly believes that there should not be any safe havens from justice – it needs to be a balanced and reciprocal arrangement.
Neither Babar Ahmad or Syed Talha Ahsan are fighting against a trial – rather, they are contesting their extradition to the United States, where they would be separated from their family and legal representatives, and face a potentially lengthy sentence in isolation within a Supermax prison.
Though both Babar Ahmad and Syed Talha Ahsan are willing to stand trial in the UK, the Crown Prosecution Service chose not to bring any charges against them. Sadiq has made this point in representations to Government Ministers, as well as the fact that both of his constituents are British citizens, and the crimes that the US authorities are accusing them of were committed in the UK – hence why they are keen to stand trial in a British court, and are reluctant to be moved to the United States.
Sadiq has made numerous representations on behalf of his constituents to successive Governments during his time as an MP - including several Home Secretaries, the Justice Secretary, the Security Minister and two Attorney Generals - about different aspects of the case, their treatment, and extradition policy. Sadiq has also presented petitions supporting his constituents to senior members of the Government, requesting that the Director of Public Prosecutions reconsider the evidence against Babar Ahmad and Syed Talha Ahsan, and pressed for them to receive appropriate treatment in prison - given that they have been held without charge for over 7 years.
Late last year, an e-petition was launched through the Government website to ‘Put Babar Ahmad on trial in the UK’ (http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/885). It was signed by 149,400 people, meaning that it has passed the threshold for consideration for debate in the House of Commons. Sadiq was informed by a senior member of the Cabinet that the Government would not be recommending that a debate be held on this subject matter due to the cases of Babar Ahmad and Syed Talha Ahsan being before the European Court of Human Rights (sub judice).
Fortunately, over the course of two urgently organised meetings, Sadiq was able to convince him of the legality of a debate being held, the merits the holding such a debate, and specifically the feeling of support for Babar and Talha across the country. The Government ceded to this position, though would only hold the debate in Westminster Hall (and not the main chamber) and on UK extradition policy in general – not on any specific case.
The debate was held on Thursday 24th November, and on ‘Backbench Business Committee’ time. This meant Sadiq was unable to speak as a ‘frontbencher’ (Sadiq is a Member of the Shadow Cabinet). Sadiq did attend the full three hour debate, and noted that a number of his fellow MPs spoke about his constituents’ cases (and were also very supportive of what Sadiq has done on their behalf). You can read the full transcript of the debate here.
On behalf of the 140,000 people who signed Babar’s petition, Sadiq continued to push the Backbench Business Committee for a debate in the House of Commons Chamber. Finally, a debate was agreed to, and held on the 5th December, on a Motion which MPs could vote upon. The text of the Motion was:
“That this House calls upon the Government to reform the UK’s extradition arrangements to strengthen the protection of British citizens by introducing as a matter of urgency a Bill to enact the safeguards recommended by the Joint Committee on Human Rights in its Fifteenth Report, HC 767, and by pursuing such amendments to the UK-US Extradition Treaty 2003 and the EU Council Framework Decision 2002 on the European Arrest Warrant as are necessary in order to give effect to such recommendations.”
You can read the full transcript of the debate here.
By convention, ‘frontbenchers’ do not speak on backbench debates – which is why Sadiq did not speak at the debate, but he did work with other MPs who were able to speak to ensure that Babar’s case was heard – though it was disappointing that Talha’s case wasn’t given the same attention. Sadiq worked very hard to have a second debate held on Motion that could be voted upon, in the main Commons Chamber.
In the end, MPs were unanimous in their support for the Motion – and it was therefore passed without the need for a vote. Unfortunately, this debate did not have a direct affect on Syed Talha Ahsan and Babar Ahmad’s cases – but it does put pressure on the Government to consider whether changes should be made to the current extradition laws. The unanimous passing of this Backbench Business Committee Motion shows the Government that this is an important issue to many people across the UK. It is worth noting that any changes to the extradition law are unlikely to be retrospective, meaning that it wouldn’t affect the cases against Syed Talha Ahsan and Babar Ahmad.
Sadiq has very recently written to both the Attorney General and the Home Secretary making further representations on behalf of his two constituents.
In their replies both Cabinet Ministers indicated they are satisfied with the handling of the case, and they do not intend to prevent either extradition.
This is in spite of there still being unanswered questions around the original investigation of the case by the Crown Prosecution Service, and the extent of the evidence that was seen before a decision was made not to prosecute Babar and Talha in the United Kingdom.
In an effort to have this original decision reviewed, Sadiq arranged for the Chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee, Rt Hon Keith Vaz MP, to hear directly from Babar and Talha by video conference. Both Babar and Talha were able to address the Chair of the Select Committee directly. Mr Vaz has made his note of the meeting available to the Select Committee and written to the Director of Public Prosecutions asking him to review the original casework.
Sadiq is in regular contact with the families of both Syed Talha Ahsan and Babar Ahmad, and he will continue to do all he can to assist them.
UPDATE: Video from 20th June 2012 House of Commons meeting on extradition law
Update: 27th July 2012
Sadiq has recently written again to both the Attorney General and the Home Secretary making further representations on behalf of his two constituents, Babar Ahmad and Talha Ahsan. In their replies both Cabinet Ministers indicated they are "satisfied with the handling of the case". Neither of the Ministers said they would do anything to prevent either extradition.
This is in spite of there still being unanswered questions around the original investigation of the case by the British Crown Prosecution Service, and the extent of the evidence that was seen before a decision was made not to prosecute Babar and Talha in the United Kingdom.
In an effort to have this original decision reviewed, Sadiq recently arranged for the Chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee, Rt Hon Keith Vaz MP, to hear directly from Babar and Talha. This was done by a specially arranged video conference. Both Babar and Talha were able to address the Chair of the Select Committee directly. Mr Vaz has made his note of the meeting available to the Select Committee MP's. Following representations from Sadiq, Mr Vaz agreed to write to the Director of Public Prosecutions asking him to review the original casework. In his response, the Director of Public Prosecutions confirmed that they would consider the request and notifyed him that a domestic prosecutor would be reviewing the case.
We are still waiting for the outcome of the case review.
To mark the sixth year of his detainment, Sadiq issued a statement in support of Talha Ahsan’s campaign to have his trial conducted through the British justice system. Sadiq also raised his concerns over the treatment Talha Ahsan (who has been has been diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome) could expect, should he be extradited and held in solitary confinement.
Sadiq remains in regular contact with the families of both Syed Talha Ahsan and Babar Ahmad, and will continue to do all he can to assist them.
Update: 14th September 2012 - Private Prosecution by Karl Watkins
Tooting MP Rt Sadiq Khan has worked with the families of Babar Ahmad and Talha Ahsan throughout their detention. Commenting on the planned private prosecution by the businessman Karl Watkins, the MP said,”The allegations against Babar Ahmad and Syed Talha Ahsan are extremely serious.
“Through my work on behalf of the families of both men, I have repeatedly raised concerns over the handling of evidence in the case by the Crown Prosecution Service and the police.
“Babar Ahmad and Talha Ahsan have always said they are willing to stand trial in British courts. This private prosecution gives the Director of Public Prosecutions and the authorities another opportunity to look at this case.
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