Gary McKinnon, Richard O’Dwyer, Talha Ahsan and Babar Ahmad all face extradition to the US
Talha Ahsan has been in a high security prison without trial for six years.
As far as his younger brother Hamja is aware, he doesn’t even know what Facebook and Twitter are.
This is what he tells me over a cup of tea at the family home in Tooting, south London.
A ‘Free Talha Ahsan’ banner hangs from the wall and the dining table is strewn with ‘Talha Ahsan is innocent’ badges and flyers.
There are also copies of his latest poetry anthology – This Be The Answer: Poems From Prison.
The 32-year-old is one of four Britons facing extradition to the US for alleged cybercrimes.
The others are Babar Ahmad, 38, also from Tooting, Gary McKinnon, 46, from Glasgow and Richard O’Dwyer, 24, from Sheffield.
Ahsan is alleged to have been involved with extremist websites, as is Ahmad, who has further allegations of ‘terror fundraising’ against him.
O’Dwyer faces extradition for alleged copyright infringement via link-sharing website TVshack.net, while McKinnon allegedly hacked in to Nasa and the US defence department while investigating UFOs at Sheffield Hallam University. Both McKinnon and Ahsan have Asperger syndrome – a form of autism.
The families of the four men have joined forces with campaigners for the protest outside Downing Street tomorrow. They will be demanding ‘British justice for British citizens’.
They have the backing of legal experts, human rights groups and MPs, who are all calling for amendments to the Extradition Act 2003. Currently, the Act enables America to take British subjects to the US for detention, trial or jail without producing any evidence to a British judge.
‘Extradition is the legal arrangement between states to transfer suspected criminals between their jurisdictions,’ explained human rights barrister Pete Weatherby QC.
‘Traditionally, extraditions are executed via a process that protects the rights of your citizens and you expect other states to protect theirs.
‘Until the Extradition Act 2003, the state looking to extradite British citizens had to produce a prima-facie case, which means a case that is sufficient to call for an answer.
‘Many human rights lawyers – myself included – argue this is the best way to effectively extradite people and protect your citizens’ rights.’
And Isabella Sankey, director of policy at Liberty said the Act meant Britons could be tried in another country under a ‘fast-track’ system.
‘It sidesteps traditional British justice,’ she said. ‘Our citizens should never be hauled for trial overseas without evidence first being presented in a British court to prove there’s a basic case to answer.’
Another worrying aspect of the Extradition Act is that citizens who allegedly commit crimes at home face trial in a different country entirely.
‘Mr Ahsan is a British citizen who’s accused of committing acts in this country,’ Mr Weatherby continued. ‘The only connection to the US are the websites that are part of the indictment have servers there.
‘Frankly, if you reversed the situation and tried to extradite a US citizen for crimes committed in the US, you wouldn’t get past first base.
‘We are talking about a British citizen, alleged acts committed in Britain and investigations by British police considered by British authorities who decided not to prosecute.
‘Yet he’s been held for six years without charge and faces extradition to the US. That’s very worrying.’
There are further examples, too. The ‘NatWest 3’ are three British bankers extradited to Texas and jailed over a dodgy deal. Christopher Tappin, 65, was also extradited to the US to await trial for selling batteries to Iran in an FBI sting operation.
Back in London though, Hamja Ahsan, has given up his job to campaign for his brother seven days a week. ‘The worst thing is, families are being punished before anyone’s been found guilty,’ he told Metro. ‘Our family is suffering.
‘All we want is a trial in Britain – the evidence has been gathered by British police, the allegations happened in Britain, he works here and pays his taxes here.
‘Until this happened, Talha had never even been to America.’