On Monday evening it was announced Babar Ahmad and Talha Ahsan had lost their bid for appeal at the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights, along with three others, including the radical cleric Abu Hamza – paving the way for extradition to the US within weeks.
It was a decision that Talha’s brother, art curator Hamja Ahsan, calls “inhumane”. He told the Huffington Post UK he is worried his 33-year-old brother, who has Asperger Syndrome, will be “vulnerable” in a US ‘supermax’ prison.
Babar Ahmad and Talha Ahsan have been detained without trial for a combined period of 14 years
“This is very disturbing and devastating for the family. The last six years of detention without trial has been a psychological hell.
“Charles Dickens visited America in 1842 complaining about abusive solitary confinement regimes. 160 years later, what progress is there?”
Babar Ahmad and Talha Ahsan’s MP, shadow justice minister Sadiq Khan, has campaigned for the two to be tried in the UK – and on Tuesday he released a statement calling for the director of public prosecutions to examine a private case being brought against the pair by businessman and anti-extradition campaigner Karl Watkins.
“There is still the outstanding issue of the private prosecution which Karl Watkins is bringing against them,” he said.
“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.”
Speaking to the Hufffington Post UK on Tuesday, human rights lawyer Fahad Ansari said their alleged crimes were committed in Britain, not America.
“You’ve got a situation here when you’ve got two British citizens who were born in this country, lived here all their lives, worked here and the crimes that have allegedly committed were committed in Britain,” he said on Tuesday.
For Hamja, it’s frustrating the media coverage of the case focuses on cleric Abu Hamza, not his brother and Babar Ahmad.
“Abu Hamza and others’ is a misleading sound bite given that the rest of them have been detained without trial for a record-breaking time in British history,” he says.
“It’s a matter of fairness, logic and common sense that he be tried in Britain, where all the evidence and witnesses are. He denies all the charges. Extradition is a punishment in itself.”
British citizens Ahmad who has been detained without trial for eight years, and Ahsan, who has been detained for six, are accused of running a jihadist website and raising funds for terrorism.
For Babar Ahmad’s pharmacist sister Nazia, eight years without trial and questions over due process in Babar’s case have not dulled her faith in the British legal system.
She tells the Huffington Post UK that the extradition is “something that we’ve been mentally preparing ourselves for” but they still have concerns about how he will be treated in the US.
“We have a legal justice system in the UK, why can’t he be put on trial here? All the alleged crimes are said to have taken place on the UK so why can’t he be put on trial here. We’re not saying release him, we’re saying fine, put him on trial. He should face charges in this country. He is a British citizen.”
Babar Ahmad being escorted into the High Court by prison officers
Babar’s other sister, Amna, speaking to the Huffington Post UK in April before the appeal said she was worried about what would happen to her brother’s mental health if he was sent to the US.
“I’m worried that if he’s sent across to the United States firstly they’ll hold him in solitary confinement pre-trial like they did to Chris Tappin, they’ll probably be worse on Babar than they are to Chris Tappin.
“We’re a British family. Most of us were born in Britain, we’ve worked hard, we’re professionals, we’ve paid our taxes.”
Amna compared her brother’s case to those of Gary McKinnon, Chris Tappin and Richard O’Dwyer, who are all facing or have lost appeals against extradition to the US.
But she claimed that, as a Muslim facing terror charges the “public favour” in his case is less strong.
“I wouldn’t say I’m angry. I’m frustrated and I’m confused and I really, really want some answers from the British government,” she said.
Monday’s ruling amounts to the first green light for US top security prisons and the right of European governments to approve US extradition requests for high-risk suspects.
A report released last year by parliament’s joint committee on Human Rights recommended that the UK should introduce a procedure called ‘forum bar’, which would mean a judge would could refuse extradition if the majority of the alleged crimes took place in the UK.
Keith Vaz has also raised questions about the case, saying “there remain concerns about the Babar Ahmad case and this must not be used as a green light for the Home Secretary to agree to the extradition of Gary McKinnon or Richard O’Dwyer”.
The Home Office said Babar Ahmad, Seyla Talha Ahsan, Adel Abdul Bary and Khaled Al-Fawwaz and Abus Hamza would be “handed over to the US authorities as quickly as possible”.