Detained for years with no charge
Compiled from various sources
published: 4WardEver UK – August 2011
Any news updates on this case will be listed at the foot of this item
Syed Talha Ahsan is a British-born poet and writer with Aspergers Syndrome facing extradition to America. If convicted he could spend up to 70 years in “supermax” solitary confinement. His family say they want their son to be tried in the UK. Authorities in the United States suspect Syed of running an extremist website and funding the Taliban. The former Dulwich College pupil has taken his case to the European Court of Human Rights.
He was arrested at his home in Tooting, South London, on 19th July 2007 by officers from Scotland Yard’s extradition unit, under a provisional warrant alleging offences under the Extradition Treaty 2003.
He is accused in the US of terrorism-related offences arising out of an alleged involvement with a series of websites between 1997 and 2004. He is also accused of supporting the Taliban and having discussed in emails the possibility of attacking naval targets in the Persian Gulf. Mr Ahsan denies all charges.
Syed’s case is linked to that of Babar Ahmad – but he has received much less media attention than Mr Ahmad, who was arrested in 2003 and is also still in prison.
Syed was arrested at home on 19th July 2006 pursuant to a warrant under the controversial Extradition Act 2003 whereby no prima facie evidence is required to support a request.
He is accused of terrorism-related offences between 1997-2004 based on a series of websites one of whose servers happened to be in American amongst several other countries. He denies all charges.
The enormity of the claims is not commensurate with the facts:
- Syed is a British Citizen who has never been to America
- He has a condition called Aspergers syndrome which has caused him a history of difficulties since childhood.
- He has never been arrested or questioned by British police despite a number of men being detained from his local area in December 2003 for similar allegations. All of them released without charge.
- One of them, Babar Ahmad was later compensated £60,000 by the Metropolitan police after a civil case in March 2009 for violent physical and racist abuse during his arrest leaving 73 injuries and bleeding in his ears and urine. In August 2010 a number of officers were finally charged with assault. [They were subsequently acquitted].
- It was “evidence” from that incident which formed the basis of arrest for Syed, three and a half years later after Mr. Ahmad had lost his own extradition case at the High Court in July 2006.
- There is much more that is troubling about these cases in addition to police brutality: questioning of Guantanamo detainees about the allegations; torture of a relative in Pakistan; and bugging of prison visits from a local MP. Indeed there may be other disturbing details waiting to surface.
- Both the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have expressed opposition to these extradition arrangements before the elections. Let them be true to their word in government.
- The Ahsan family believe that terrorism can be tackled without compromising the sovereignty of British Citizenship or betraying a sense of justice.
Syed’s family wants his trial to take place in the UK claiming that he could be subjected to “inhumane treatment” in the US because he faces the prospect of being detained in a so-called “supermax” high security prison in Colorado, where other terror suspects were held.
They have claimed this would be in breach of his human rights as they believe he could face years of solitary confinement and could be locked up for 23 hours a day. His father Abu Ahsan said: “He’s born and brought up in this country and if he’d done anything wrong in this country then it will be tried according to the law in this country. He had never been in America.”
Robin Simcox, from the Henry Jackson Society – an organisation which seeks to promote liberal democracy around the world – believes extradition would be in the interests of justice. He said: “For the European court to decide all of a sudden that America wouldn’t be a fair place to try terrorist suspects strikes me as a completely unreasonable position to take.”
But five years on Abu Ahsan remains hopeful of being reunited with his son. He said; “I hope he will come back and when he will come back he will take (over) my business,” he said.
In August 2011 The chief inspector of prisons, Nick Hardwick, raised fresh concerns about a group of national security detainees (including Syed) who are being held in a special unit at Long Lartin high security jail in Worcestershire. Hardwick says in a report published on Thursday that too little attention is being paid to the “uniquely isolated and uncertain position” of the detainees, who are being held in a “legal limbo” without being charged or facing trial.
The Homecoming of Babar Ahmad and Talha Ahsan
17 July 2014
Talha Ahsan: The Terrorist That Wasn’t
17 July 2014
Extradited British terror suspects to plead guilty in US
6 December 2013
The impossible injustice of Talha Ahsan’s extradition and detention
21 February 2013
Profile of Syed Talha Ahsan