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(DV) Sheikh: Extradition Act 2003 -- "Where Do You Want to Go Today?"







Extradition Act 2003: “Where Do You Want to Go Today?”
by Ridwan Sheikh
July 29, 2006

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It’s a catchy slogan, but it appears the nation’s legal system is taking Microsoft’s cue. Sadly, the ill-fated recipient is yet another young Muslim man. 


Syed Talha Ahsan, 25, of Tooting, South London, was arrested by Anti-Terrorist police officers, on 19 July 2006, at the request of the US government, under the guise of “The War on Terror.”


A federal grand jury in Bridgeport, District of Connecticut, returned a three-count indictment (charge) for participating in a conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists; aiding and abetting others in providing material support to terrorists; and participating in a conspiracy to kill, maim or injure persons or damage property in a foreign country.  


The allegations arise from websites created with Babar Ahmad, which were suspected of being sympathetic to Al-Qaeda activities. If extradited and convicted of the charges, Talha Ahsan faces a maximum term of life in prison. 


The UK government’s response was cynical and ruthless. Just like the mad hatter, at the tea party, in Lewis Carroll’s adaptation of, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, the empty rhetoric’s, were soon followed by the gut churning shoulder-to-shoulder stance with George W. Bush.  


So why are individuals such as Babar Ahmad, the Natwest three and Talha Ahsan being extradited to the US and not being given a fair trial in this country?  


This was answered on the fateful day of 31 March 2003. David Blunkett, the former Home secretary, hurriedly signed an Extradition Treaty, the Extradition Act 2003, on behalf of the UK, with his US counterpart, Attorney General Tom Ashcroft, (himself, no stranger to draconian terror laws, by being the chief instigator for devising the Patriot Act). 


With Parliament deliberately not being consulted, for fear of the treaty being thrown out and the details not publicly available until the end of May 2003, it was too late. The ruse was set and subsequently, the legislation came into effect. David Blunklett cited “administrative delays” for his reasons in deceiving the nation.  


Ben Hayes, from Statewatch, a Civil liberties monitoring group, believes the Extradition Act 2003, strips individual’s of the basic human rights to be tried fairly.  


"Under the new treaty, the allegations of the US government will be enough to secure the extradition of people from the UK. However, if the UK wants to extradite someone from the US, evidence to the standard of a "reasonable" demonstration of guilt will still be required.  

“No other EU countries would accept this US demand, either politically or constitutionally. Yet the UK government not only acquiesced, but did so taking advantage of arcane legislative powers to see the treaty signed and implemented without any parliamentary debate or scrutiny. 


“Guantanamo Bay, the failed extradition of Lofti Raissi and US contempt for the International Criminal Court make this decision to remove relevant UK safeguards all the more alarming”, he said. 


The case of Talha Ahsan poses some thought provoking questions.


Principally, why has it taken the US government up until now to arrest Talha Ahsan, especially when the authorities had the alleged information at a much earlier time? Is there a more sinister motive involved between the US and UK, to use this case as a benchmark platform, to give the impression that the failed “war on terror” is yielding results? And more crucially, does the “Natwest three,” Babar Ahmad and Talha Ahsan cases give the US government a legal stranglehold and ultimate dominance, to further rein in alleged terrorists, whose alleged crime is using the Internet medium? 


What is certain, mere suspicion does not prove the guilt of a person in UK courts. The recent successful acquittal of the “Red mercury” bomb plot trio is testament to the fair legal proceedings that still exists in the British justice system. But, by replacing reason with continued barbaric laws, such as the Extradition Act 2003, the catchy slogan would not be, “Where do you want to go today?”, but, “How soon can you go today?”  
Ridwan Sheikh is a freelance writer and a civil servant. Presently, he provides a fortnightly editorial for a lobby group, SPT (Stop Political Terror), which focuses on the UK government’s Anti-Terror legislation.