The families of Talha Ahsan and Babar Ahmad, British citizens extradited to the US in 2012 and recently sentenced, have never stopped fighting for their release.
Talha’s brother Hamja Ahsan talked to Socialist Worker about Talha’s experience.
“Talha is now in an immigration centre,” he said. “We haven’t been told when they will let him fly home.
“All our family feel it’s hard to spend another Eid without him. My parents can’t be happy until he’s here in front of them. I visited Talha before the sentencing. It was so harsh that there were several suicide attempts while he was there. You smell and see blood.
“Talha’s cell was a concrete tomb. He was locked up for 23 hours a day with the only human contact while being strip searched.”
Talha was able to keep going because of the support he received. Hamja said, “He got hundreds of letters every day from all over the world and he published a book of poetry from prison.
“He still has a glow of optimism.”
The charges related to a website Talha helped run a PO box for in early 2001 for around five months. The US government claimed both men were committed to violent jihad. But the eventual charges were the catch all of providing "material support" for militants fighting in Chechnya and Afghanistan.
US attorney Deirdre Daly admitted that the US had wanted them jailed for the maximum possible sentences.
Both did plea bargains in the hopes of lesser sentences served at home. Their two years in the US were spent in solitary confinement in supermax prisons.
Each spent the previous eight and ten years in high security prisons in Britain without charges. The judge decided that Talha should serve no more time and Babar should serve the rest of a 12 and half year sentence in Britain. This means that Babar could also be free in a matter of months.
The statements made outside the court expose how critical the British state was in creating the case against Babar and Talha.
Daly thanked the British authorities for their “tremendous support” over a decade.
Bruce Foucart, a special agent in charge of homeland security investigations, spoke alongside her. He said he wanted to “thank the Metropolitan Police force for the special relationship” they had and admitted “we couldn’t have got this far without them.”
Hamja now wants to point to the problems of Britain’s prison system.
“They are becoming more like US prisons with overcrowding, privatisation and the cutting back of educational programmes,” he said.
When Talha comes home Hamja said he will not stop fighting.
“I don’t intend to give up campaigning until the law on extradition is changed,” he said. I don’t want any family to go through what we have been through.”