Londoner Babar Ahmad had been challenging extradition to the US for nearly ten years when BBC West Midland’s Arshia Riaz featured his story.
Prosecutors allege Ahmad was a global fundraiser for extremists in Afghanistan and Chechnya, through a website operated from south London but technically based in the US. Because of that the US authorities want to extradite him.
His case has been debated in the Commons and an e-petition calling for him to be tried in the UK has gathered 140,000 signatures.
Today MPs met again to discuss a Resolution calling for the Government to introduce new safeguards for those whose extradition is sought from the UK.
Riaz told Ariel she’d been aware of Ahmad’s story for a long time, but when she heard about the petition she decided to follow the story, and interviewed his sister Nazia.
‘People wanted to know why in this day and age a British man can be held without trial,’ Riaz said.
‘This isn’t a question of whether he is guilty or not – it’s the fact he’s been detained in a UK prison without trial.’
The interview with Nazia was posted on YouTube, which Riaz said gave rise to more debate and discussion – and also led to her getting a letter from Ahmad. In it he wrote: “I hope you will accept this humble card from me as a token of my gratitude for the professional manner in which you covered my case.
He continued: ‘As you will know the e-petition was an astounding success thanks to your help and the help of countless others to whom I am indebted.’
Riaz said she was overwhelmed: ‘It was such a personal gesture. A piece I did was heard by the man at the very heart of it.
‘For me his letter shows how a local BBC Asian programme such as Midlands Masala can make a difference even though its only broadcast for three hours, once a week.
One of the reasons I got into journalism was so that I could reflect issues that affect real people and real lives.’