One of the subscribers to the blog has reminded me of the plight of Babar Ahmad, currently in prison for 7 years without charge or evidence. He needed 100,000 signatures on this petition site to trigger a debate in the Commons, and that might free him, or at last restart the justice system for him. I am pleased to say that I just signed and the total now stands at 100,106 (in the time it has taken me to compose this post it has risen to 101,126. But let’s try and push the total even further. The following text is lifted direct from Ben’s e mail. Please read it and more importantly please sign the petition. However you arrived at this site, if you’re a UK citizen please take the time to sign the petition.
Babar Ahmad’s story, widely covered in the Guardian and elsewhere, is a horrifying account of what the ‘war on terror’ has meant in particular for British Muslims.
Baba Ahmad has been in prison for seven years, pending extradition to the US on charges of terrorism for which no evidence has been given. If this petition gains enough signatures there will be a debate on his case in the House of Commons, which could increase his chances of going on trial prior to extradition. A trial would compel the evidence against him — if there is any — to be produced. Whether convicted or cleared, he would at least have had justice.
Babar Ahmad was originally arrested in 2003, assaulted at midnight in his home by several officers from the ‘territorial support group’ (the riot police), and then immediately released. A year later — 5 August 2004 — he was rearrested on an extradition warrant from the US and has been in prison since.
In 2007, the European Court of Human Rights suspended his extradition pending presentation of evidence. Under the Extradition Act 2003, the US does not have to provide evidence when seeking extradition from the UK, including for British citizens (which Ahmad is); there are stirrings of dissatisfaction about this within the current parliament.
In 2009 the Metropolitan Police admitted liability for assault during Ahmad’s first arrest and paid him £60,000 damages. This year, in a separate trial, the officers were found not guilty of assault. Evidence of the officers’ histories of racist assaults was not shared with the jury (see BBC story here, including CCTV footage of Ahmad being brought, injured, into police custody; see also this Guardian account, and this Guardian story; be warned that the accounts of the behaviour of police officers Roderick James-Bowen, Mark Jones, Nigel Cowley, and John Donohue are unpleasant).
Maybe you won’t will take much persuading about this, but anyway I urge you to sign the petition, and to circulate it to anyone who might also support it. The deal with the Number 10 ‘e-petitions’ site is that any petition that gets over 100,000 signatures must be debated in the Commons. The petition currently has 50,000 signatures, and the deadline is 10th November.
If extradited to the US, Baba Ahmad faces life in solitary confinement. He is not the only UK citizen still held in the UK without trial or evidence; he is just the longest-serving.
This is not just about justice for Baba Ahmad; it concerns the moral character of the entire UK legal and political system, and so concerns each of us personally: if it can happen to him, it can happen to me and you.
As I have said many times before, this is a music blog, so here are some appropriate(ish) songs;