An online petition calling for ex-Imperial College staff member Babar Ahmad to be put on trial in the United Kingdom reached 141,000 signatures by its closing date of November 11, passing the requirement of 100,000 for a discussion in Parliament. This has led to a parliamentary debate being held next week on the issue of extradition.
Babar Ahmad is the longest imprisoned-without-charge UK citizen, having been imprisoned for over 7 years. He is fighting extradition to the US and the online petition was set up by his family to grant him a UK trial before he is extradited.
Instead of the case being raised in Westminster Hall as an individual discussion, Babar Ahmad’s case was included as a part of a bigger debate on extradition on November 24. The debate was only attended by 35 MPs but the conclusion was that the Babar Ahmad online petition should be discussed in the main chamber of the Commons.
Green Party MP Caroline Lucas specifically mentioned the case during the debate. She acknowledged that the case was unique and the amount of support behind it was substantial enough for its own discussion. She said: “the family and the 140,000 plus people who signed the e-petition now deserve a full Commons debate on a voteable motion.”
She also mentioned that Babar Ahmad’s solicitors and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) had admitted to never analysing the evidence in relation to his case in a letter dated November 22. This comes as news, as they had previously stated that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute him in the UK, hence his extradition to the US.
The family and people who signed the e-petition now deserve a Commons debate
Babar Ahmad’s father, Ashfaq Ahmad commented on this revelation saying that “It is quite shocking to learn that the CPS made no effort to examine the evidence seized from Babar’s home but instead simply outsourced our criminal justice system to the US. Had it examined the evidence then it could have prosecuted Babar in the UK.”
On December 5 there will be a full votable parliamentary debate on extradition. The Free Babar Ahmad Campaign hopes that this discussion will have a positive impact on Babar Ahmad’s case. They are confident that, even though the case is not mentioned in the final text of the motion, it will be the milestone they need.
Ashfaq Ahmad said: “It is essential that any reforms to the extradition laws that are voted for apply to pending cases such as Babar’s as it would be absolutely immoral to extradite British citizens under a Treaty that has been found by Parliament to be unfair.”
The full text of the motion calls upon the House of Commons to “reform the UK’s extradition arrangements as a matter of urgency to strengthen the protection of British citizens” through the introduction of a Bill in Parliament to “enact the safeguards recommended by the Joint Committee on Human Rights in its Fifteenth Report of 2010-12, and by pursuing such amendments to the UK-US Extradition Treaty 2003 and the EU Council Framework Decision 2002 on the European Arrest Warrant”.
This is a significant step for the Free Babar Ahmad campaign. The organisers have expressed their gratitude for the overwhelming public support of 141,000 signatures that brought Babar Ahmad’s case to the government’s attention. They are now awaiting the outcome of the debate on December 5 and how it will affect Babar Ahmad’s case.