For Babar Ahmad, the British citizen held for seven years fighting his planned extradition to the US to face terrorism charges that were found to be hollow when investigated in the UK, the realisation that an e-petition to the British government, asking for him to be tried in the UK and not extradited to the US, has reached its target of 100,000 signatures, must be welcome news indeed.
Last night, the target was reached, which now means that Babar Ahmad’s case will be debated In Parliament, and is one of only five petitions to reach the 100,000 target required to ensure a Parliamentary debate. In seeking justice for Mr. Ahmad, the e-petition states, “In June 2011, the Houses of Parliament Joint Committee on Human Rights urged the UK government to change the law so that Babar Ahmad’s perpetual threat of extradition is ended without further delay. Since all of the allegations against Babar Ahmad are said to have taken place in the UK, we call upon the British Government to put him on trial in the UK and support British Justice for British Citizens.”
After exhausting all legal avenues in the UK, Babar Ahmad submitted an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights, which, as I explained in an article last week, Sign the Petition to the British Government: Prevent Babar Ahmad’s Extradition to the US, Put Him on Trial in the UK, delayed his extradition. In July 2010, the ECHR halted the extradition of Babar Ahmad and three other men — Abu Hamza al-Masri, Haroon Rashid Aswat and Talha Ahsan — and called for further submissions, after lawyers argued that, if they were convicted in the US, their conditions of confinement would be so severe that they would amount to a breach of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights (PDF), which guarantees that no one will be “subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” Lawyers for the men argued that they would face life without parole (except Aswat, who faced a 50-year sentence), and that holding them in a “Supermax” prison, would contravene their rights, because prolonged isolation is a form of torture.
A final ruling by the European court is expected by the end of the year, but for now Babar Ahmad’s supporters deserve to be congratulated for their hard work over the last three months in promoting this petition and shifting the debate to Parliament, where it should have been discussed many years ago.
In response to the news, Babar Ahmad made the following statement from Long Lartin prison:
This is brilliant news. Thousands of ordinary people of all faiths and none, up and down the country have worked tirelessly day and night to achieve this significant victory. When you have gone through hell for over 7 years, you tend to lose your faith in humanity. This campaign shows that there are still good people left in this country. I would like to personally thank each and every one of these people and say to them, “May Allah remember you in your hour of need as you remembered me in my hour of need.” Although this is an amazing milestone, there is still alot of work left to be done and we need to keep on going.
From my own point of view, I wish to extend my thanks to everyone involved, for demonstrating that it is possible to motivate people in large numbers to address outstanding political and legal problems, and I also urge readers to continue pushing for signatures until the closing date of the petition, on November 10, as many of those submitted may be excluded on various grounds, and it would be unthinkable to fall at this last hurdle.
I also encourage people to think about contacting their MPS to follow up on the success of the petition, and encourage those who have worked so hard on this campaign to consider a similar campaign for Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo, who has been cruelly neglected by successive governments, and whose plight has never resonated sufficiently with the British public to secure the pressure to guarantee his return to his wife and family in Battersea after nearly ten years in Guantánamo.
Below is a press release issued by the Free Babar Ahmad campaign, to mark the success of the e-petition.
Celebrities Rally in Support of Babar Ahmad as over 100,000 sign E-Petition
Free Babar Ahmad, November 3, 2011
Over 100,000 people in Britain have now signed an official e-petition urging the government to put British detainee Babar Ahmad on trial in the UK, instead of extraditing him to the US.
The petition has been actively supported by a wide range of celebrities, including world boxing champion, Amir Khan, comedians Mark Thomas and Marcus Brigstocke, and actor Robert Llewellyn, who have been appalled by Ahmad’s ongoing detention without trial. He is now in his 8th year of detention, making him the longest detained-without-trial British citizen in the modern history of the UK.
Now that over 100,000 people have signed the petition, the matter becomes eligible for parliamentary debate.
The family of Babar Ahmad stated:
Our solicitors have prepared a fresh file of evidence to the Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer proving that the CPS [Crown Prosecution Service] should have prosecuted Babar in 2004. Over 100,000 members of the British public now ask the DPP to confirm that he will instruct independent counsel to conduct an urgent full re-review of this case so that Babar Ahmad can be put on trial in the UK.
We also ask the coalition government to confirm that a full parliamentary debate will be held about Babar’s case with a view to putting him on trial in the UK.
Our family would like to thank every single person who either signed or supported this petition. We are overwhelmed by the amount of support for Babar’s case. This shows that the British public is still prepared to stand up against injustice. The government must now take a bold stance on this issue and stop sweeping it under the carpet like it has done for the last seven years.
A number of senior politicians and lawyers have also spoken out in support of the petition. The Rt. Hon. Sadiq Khan MP, Member of Parliament for Tooting, said:
The support for this e-petition has been phenomenal. Thousands of people feel very strongly about the Extradition Act in general, and Babar’s case in particular. I would like to pay tribute to Babar’s family for keeping this issue in the public’s mind. It is important that Parliament debates the matters raised in the petition. As Babar’s Member of Parliament, I have worked with his family and legal team for a number of years arguing that any trial should be held in the UK.
Baroness Sarah Ludford MEP called for Babar to “either be charged and tried here or released; his long and seemingly unending detention is a travesty of justice.”
Leading civil liberties lawyer Sir Geoffrey Bindman QC described Babar’s ongoing detention without trial as “extraordinary hardship,” adding that it would be “monstrous and scandalous if Babar Ahmad were extradited to the US.”
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