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Babar Ahmad freed at last after 11 years of jail torment

IT worker beaten up, extradited and put in solitary—but judge found he wasn’t a terrorist, says Ken Olende

Issue No. 2463

Babar Ahmad reunited with his father

Babar Ahmad reunited with his father (Pic: Free Babar Ahmad Campaign)


Babar Ahmad is free and back with his family in London after 11 years of imprisonment, mostly in solitary confinement. 

The IT worker from Tooting, south London, fought extradition to the US for years.

Babar issued a statement saying, “Eleven years of solitary confinement and isolation in ten different prisons has been an experience too profound to sum up in a few words here and now.

“In October 2012, I was blindfolded, shackled and forcibly stripped naked when I was extradited to the US. Last week, US and UK government officials treated me with courtesy and respect during my journey home.”

Babar and his co-defendant Talha Ahsan pled guilty when they faced a US court in New Haven.

Moazzam Begg of Cage Prisoners—now called Cage—said at the time, “We must be careful against seeing this as an admission of guilt.

“Rather, Babar had little choice but to make this decision after finding himself amid torturous conditions within the impossible labyrinth of US injustice.”

In the US 97 percent of federal cases in 2012 ended in guilty pleas. This allows the accused to “plea bargain”—a guilty plea is exchanged for a dramatically reduced sentence.

A plea bargain reduced Babar’s sentence from 25 years to 12 and a half years. Since the time he was held in Britain fighting extradition was included he has now been released.

Websites

Babar and Talha were convicted under terrorism laws of running websites that supported Islamist fighters in Chechnya and Afghanistan.

The press has been keen to dismiss Babar as a terrorist.

But the US judge who convicted him said during his sentencing in 2012, “Neither of these two defendants were interested in what is commonly known as terrorism.”

Judge Janet Hall went on to say, “It appears to me that he is a generous, thoughtful person who is funny and honest.

“He is well liked and humane and empathetic. This is a good person who does not and will not seek in the future to harm other people.”

Babar Ahmad had spent eight years fighting extradition to the US. Talha also fought from the time of his arrest in 2006 until he was released last year. The men were held in solitary confinement in “supermax” prisons after their extradition. 

The Metropolitan Police had to pay Babar £60,000 in damages after a “serious, gratuitous and prolonged” assault by Territorial Support Group officers during his initial arrest in 2003.

He was punched, kicked and throttled. Officers forced him into the Muslim prayer position and shouted, “Where is your God now? Pray to him.”

Babar’s statement said, “The world has moved on since 2004, yet in some ways, sadly it has failed to progress.”


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News
Tue 21 Jul 2015, 17:53 BST
Issue No. 2463
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