Press Association report, 14 February 2006
Ken Livingstone today blasted a controversial extradition treaty being used to send a British Muslim to face terror charges in the US as “offensive”.
It will also guarantee that Babar Ahmad, a computer expert from Tooting, south London, accused of running websites inciting murder and urging Muslims to fight a holy war, will never get a fair hearing.
“The reality is that anybody who has seen the condition of the American prisons or nature of the the US justice system can not have any confidence that anyone of a Muslim background extradited from Britain can have a fair trial,” Labour’s London Mayor said. “It is offensive.”
His opinion clashes with that of Home Secretary Charles Clarke who approved the extradition under the 2003 Extraditon Act last year.
Mr Ahmad, currently in Woodhill Prison, Milton Keynes, is appealing the decision at the High Court on February 20 as civil rights leaders and former Guantanamo Bay detainee Moazzem Begg step up their campaign for the treaty to be overhauled. They are holding a cross-party meeting at the House of Commons on Thursday.
Mr Ahmad is accused of raising money to support terrorism in Chechnya and Afghanistan by internet sites and emails. His supporters argue that if any crime was committed he should be tried in Britain because that is where the offence took place.
The Treaty was originally introduced as part of the War Against Terror but there are about 40 people now facing extradition to the US for white collar crimes.
The Treaty has not yet been ratified by the US Senate and is not reciprocal. It allows the US to cherry pick people to face trial abroad while not allowing its own citizens to face the same standard of justice, campaigners claim.
Mr Ahmad’s father Ashfaq fears that he will face torture and ill treatment if sent to the US. He warned: “If Babar is extradited, he will be subject to torture and a possible death sentence. Other Britons, whom the USA wants, will follow suit.
“The controversial one-sided 2003 Extradition Treaty does not only undermine British sovereignty, it is illogical, inhumane and is in total violation of basic human rights. One cannot prove his innocence in a British court under this Treaty, where as an American citizen can in an American court.'”
The decision to extradite has sparked outrage among Muslim groups who have branded it a “travesty of justice”.
Sadiq Khan, Mr Ahmad’s MP, has backed calls for him to be tried in Britain saying “the obvious question being asked is if the crimes were committed here why shouldn’t he be tried here?” He said: “This is not just about Muslims. It is about British citizens who face extradition to the US. There are about 40 people facing extradition to the US, most of them for white collar crimes.”
Mr Livingstone added: “Once again British citizens are being subjected to a worse standard of justice than the Americans have a right to expect. Everyone else in the world is almost becoming a second class citizen in comparison to the imperial empire in the White House.”
Mr Ahmad was arrested by British anti-terrorist officers in December 2003 and released six days later without charge. He was re-arrested on an extradition warrant to the US in December 2004. Bow Street Magistrates Court in central London ruled that he could be sent to face trial in the US in May last year.
Details of anti-extradition meeting:
Thursday 16 February, 6.45pm, Attlee Suite, Portcullis House, House of Commons
For more information on the campaign, go to www.freebabarahmad.com