Campaigners and civil rights groups have reacted with anger to a judge’s decision last week to allow the extradition of Babar Ahmad to the US on “terrorism” charges.
Babar, an IT worker from Tooting, south London, has been in custody since August last year when the US issued an extradition warrant against him.
The extradition request will now go before the home secretary, Charles Clarke, who is all but certain to rubber stamp it. Babar is then expected to appeal to the high court.
In a statement responding to the verdict on Tuesday of last week, Babar’s family vowed that “the fight is not over and the campaign continues”.
“The authorities sought to break us but they have had the opposite effect. Many people have united and continue to unite in the campaign for justice,” they added.
“We would like to thank all our supporters, Muslims and non-Muslims, who have tirelessly attended demonstrations, campaigned with us and supported us.”
Students from Imperial College, where Babar studied and worked, also pledged that they would continue to fight against his extradition.
“It’s not over and we’re not going to give up,” said Colin Smith, welfare campaigns officer for Imperial College Union. “The fight isn’t over until the last protester lets go of the wheel of the aeroplane that takes Babar off to the US.”
Much of the criticism of the verdict was aimed at a new extradition treaty with the US, which came into force last year after being rushed through parliament by former home secretary David Blunkett.
“It is unacceptable that under the Extradition Treaty 2003 there is no longer any need for the US government to prove to a UK court, or even to the home secretary, that there is a prima facie case against British citizens,” said Iqbal Sacranie, secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain.
“Instead the US can now simply order that British citizens be plucked from our streets and thrown into US jails by making serious~and wholly unproven~ allegations against them.”
“This draconian treaty has reduced the judiciary in the UK to a rubber stamping instrument in reference to allegations that do not require to be proved before it. This is a clear violation of all civilised norms of justice.”
The Muslim Council of Britain’s concern was echoed by Liberty, which campaigns for human rights and civil liberties.
“Babar Ahmad is not able to test even a prima facie case against him and faces being sent to the other side of the world, away from his family, friends and community,” a Liberty spokesperson said.
“Liberty believes this seriously erodes British traditions of natural justice and is plainly contrary to human rights’ values. Americans can not be summarily extradited in the same way, which underlines the injustice of the process.”
During Babar’s lengthy extradition hearing at Bow Street magistrates court in London, his lawyers argued that the US’s judicial practices post-9/11 would severely undermine his human rights.
In particular, they criticised the use of military orders~which transfer those deemed “enemy combatants” from civilian to military courts~and “special administrative measures” that restricted the rights of those suspected of terrorist offences.
The prosecution responded by producing a diplomatic note that promised Babar would not be subject to a military order or designated an enemy combatant. The note made no promises regarding special administrative measures, however.
In his verdict, Judge Timothy Workman conceded that this was a “difficult and troubling case”, but concluded he could find no statutory bar to the extradition.
He ruled that the diplomatic note “does bind the American government, which includes the president” and that consequently the risk of Babar ending up in military custody was “almost entirely removed”.
Nevertheless, the judge did criticise the US’s human rights record in his verdict. He described the evidence of Thomas Loflin III, a US human rights attorney called by Babar’s defence team as an expert witness, “truthful, accurate and compelling”.
Judge Workman conceded that if Babar was placed under a military order, “there is a substantial risk that the defendant would be detained at Guantanamo Bay or subjected to rendition another country”~a reference to the secret US policy of deporting terrorism suspects for torture abroad.
“There is no doubt in my mind that if he were to be subject to Military Order No 1, he would be deprived of his convention rights within the meaning of the Human Rights Act 1998. He would probably be subject to detention in circumstances which would be inhuman and degrading.”
The judge concluded, “I have no doubt that many of the complex issues that have arisen in this case will need to be explored by the high court, and I advise the defendant... that he has that right to appeal to the high court.”
For more details of the campaign go to www.freebabarahmad.com