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Seven More British Muslims Facing Extradition to the United States
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Seven More British Muslims Facing Extradition to the United States

27th September 2008

Muslim Leaders meet Prime Minister Over U.S Extradition Arrests

Earlier today Muslim community leaders met with Prime Minister Gordon Brown at Downing Street to express their concerns over the latest arrests of British Muslims on extradition requests from the U.S. The seven arrests in Birmingham last week, all of Britons of Pakistani origin, brought the total number of terrorism-related arrests under the Extradition Act 2003 this year alone to 132, all British Muslims.

Imtiaz Hassan, a 21-year-old university student from Birmingham appeared at Bow Street Magistrates Court on Friday charged with conspiracy to murder Israeli soldiers in Israel. David Simpson, counsel for the U.S., stated in Court that Hassan had been overheard by fellow students talking about “the Jihad in Palestine” and that he had actually purchased an airline ticket to Jordan dated 6th October 2008. Since the ticket had been bought using an American Express credit card, Mr Simpson told the packed courtroom, the “U.S. claims jurisdiction over the offence because all American Express transactions are processed in the U.S.” Hassan’s family denied the allegations, insisting that he was only travelling to Jordan to study Arabic.

Under the terms of the Extradition Act 2003 Category 2 legislation, the U.S. does not have to provide any evidence to a British court before demanding the extradition of any British citizen or resident. The 2003 UK-U.S. Extradition Treaty was signed by former Home Secretary David Blunkett and U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft on 31st March 2003 and came into effect in the UK in January 2004. Over five years on, the U.S. Senate has still failed to ratify and give effect to the Treaty, meaning that the Treaty remains one-sided with no reciprocal benefit to the UK. Yet during this period the U.S. has made 223 extradition requests of the UK, of which 169 are of British Muslims accused of terrorism. 84 British Muslims have already been extradited to the U.S., of whom 22 are serving whole life sentences in U.S. prisons. This state of affairs has been roundly condemned by Muslims and civil liberties groups.

Babar Ahmad was the first British Muslim to be extradited to the U.S. in February 2007, after a protracted legal battle to the House of Lords. After a three-month trial, widely criticised by human rights groups due to the admissibility of torture evidence, he was convicted in a Connecticut court in January 2008 of terrorism related offences and sentenced to life in prison in solitary confinement without possibility of parole.

Commenting on the recent U.S. extradition arrests, Babar Ahmad’s family said, “We are saddened that matters have come to this. For two and a half years we campaigned vociferously against the UK’s oppressive extradition arrangements with the U.S. but the Muslims of this country failed to support us. The Muslim community remained in denial and refused to understand the implications of this law for themselves, their children and their future in this country. We repeatedly told everyone that Babar’s case was the test case and that if Babar was extradited it would open the floodgates to extradite all those British Muslims to the U.S. whom the UK authorities were unable to charge. But it seems as if no-one believed us because they thought that we were exaggerating and scaremongering….”

De Manzoor Shah, spokesman for the Muslim Affairs Trust, said in a joint press conference after the meeting at Downing Street, “We expressed our concerns to the Prime Minister about the high number of British Muslims that are being extradited to the U.S. without any evidence and he has promised to look into our concerns.” Prime Minister Gordon Brown added to Dr Shah’s comments by saying, “As we have always maintained, our terrorism and extradition laws are not aimed at Muslims or any particular community. They are aimed at terrorists, whatever their faith or background. Extradition between major allies is a necessary and vital tool in the fight against terrorism. The U.S. is a mature democracy that respects all international laws and the British Government fully accepts assurances from the U.S. Government that it does not make unjustified or improper extradition requests.”

What do you think is the likelihood of a news piece like this appearing in two years’ time? As it stands now, it is almost certain if the present state of affairs continues.

One of the things I have failed to grasp after two years in prison is the ignorance, naivety and denial of British Muslims in understanding the significance of the 2003 UK-U.S. Extradition treaty. They have simply not realised the threat that this extradition legislation poses to the very future of themselves and their children in this country. It has been sadly amusing watching Muslim leaders and groups run around crying about incitement to religious hatred laws, glorification of terrorism laws and whether to intern Muslims without charge for 28 days or 90 days, yet the reality is that all these laws put together do not even amount to 1% of the tangible oppression upon British Muslims under the current UK-U.S. extradition legislation. Incitement to religious hatred laws would not have protected British Muslims from state sponsored Islamophobic terrorism (i.e. racist police, etc.) anyway, so it makes no difference whether or not they are passed. The best protection the oppressors can give the oppressed is to protect the oppressed from their own evil. Glorification of terrorism (i.e. a Muslim speaking out against injustice and oppression) is only a seven-year maximum sentence of which one serves half. And 28 days, or even 90 days without charge, pales in comparison to the many years that one can hold someone without charge under the excuse of ‘extradition’. So why is it that the British Muslims failed to kick and scream about UK-U.S. extradition legislation in the same way that they did about these other laws? Because these laws are only the smokescreen to sneak in the more sinister UK-U.S. extradition law.

On Wednesday 10th May 2006, 293 MP’s- many of whom had assured their constituents in private meetings that they would oppose the current UK-U.S. legislation- voted in support of the U.S. against the interests of British citizens by rejecting crucial amendments to the Police and Justice Bill 2006. Did anyone hear or know about it? Of course not, because it did not come on the news. Compare the list of MP’s who showed token opposition to the UK-U.S. extradition legislation by signing Early Day Motion 241 [i] with the list of 293 MP’s who voted for U.S. interest [ii] when it came to the crunch vote that would have turned EDM 241 into law. See any names that appear in both these lists? When some people say that Parliamentary democracy is a farce and that most MP’s are basically two-timing, lying hypocrites who care about nothing except their careers, can you blame them?

It is odd that we are innocent and naïve when it comes to ascertaining whether we are being taken for a ride by those who wish us harm. Yet we do not seem to have the same naivety and innocence when it comes to conducting business or haggling the price of our next Mercedes. Director of Liberty, Shami Chakrabarti, recently said words to the effect of, “It is all well and good Muslims protesting about a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad, but it would have be more worth their while if they were to protest against CIA torture flights and Guantanamo Bay with the same vigour.” Sometimes it takes an outsider to point out the painful truth to us if we ourselves are blind to it.

I recently received a letter from Rachid Ramda who is in a French prison. Rachid is the Algerian man who was extradited to France in December 2005 after fighting extradition from Belmarsh Prison for 10 years. He wrote to me, “ I feel that the Muslims of Britain let me down and did not do enough to help me. I really hope that they do not let you down in the same way that they let me down…”

British Political Prisoner Babar Ahmad
HMP Woodhill
7th June 2006

[i] http://edmi.parliament.uk/EDMi/EDMDetails.aspx?EDMID=28440&SESSION=875 List of MPs who have signed Early Day Motion 241 [ii] http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200506/cmhansrd/cm060510/debtext/60510-0013.htm List of MPs who voted for and against the amendments to the Police and Justice Bill

SOURCE: The Muslim Weekly