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Dear Ambassador Susman....

A letter cced to Salaam.co.uk

The US Ambassador to the United Kingdom
Grosvenor Square

Dear Ambassador Susman

This is a last ditch appeal to your Government to withdraw its extradition request for a number of young British citizens including two Muslims, Babar Ahmad and Syed Talha Ahsan. We ask you to set the Treaty terms and formalities as they stand to one side and take account of the bigger picture.

You are undoubtedly aware of the disquiet within Parliament and the public in general with the US’s insistence on holding Britain to the legal letter of the law at the cost of fairness and justice. There will be thousands outside No.10 on Saturday 23rd June, and the families of Babar and Talha will be joined by those of Gary McKinnon and Richard O’Dwyer to deliver their own poignant personal letters to David and Samantha Cameron.

Of course you may say – as you did to Parliament – that you are unconcerned with individual cases where “sentiment and emotion can cloud reality and lead to misrepresentation”. But please take heed that the anguish of these families is widely shared across Britain; while it is the British way to be stoical, do not underestimate the scars the extraditions of these four young men will leave in their wake. We fear a miscarriage of justice for Babar Ahmad in particular – this is not mere sentimentality but based on the following facts:

  • the Prosecution Authorities in the United Kingdom (DPP) were not provided access to all the evidence collected by the Metropolitan Police in London; the reason for this oversight is now under investigation. Material was dispatched to the US - but not shared with the DPP - by the very same Met Police officer incriminated in a violent assault on Babar on his arrest in December 2003. This ‘missing evidence’ is now with the DPP, thanks to the efforts of Gareth Peirce. In the name of fairness, the US should withdraw the extradition request until the DPP have had the opportunity to assess the data and decide whether it is sufficient to prosecute in the UK.
  • the British public is under no illusions of the inhumane conditions in US prisons, particularly after the accounts of David Bermingham, who was extradited to the US and now back in the UK after a plea bargain. His accounts have been corroborated by Michael Ratner, President of the Centre for Constitutional Rights, recently participating via video link from New York to a large London audience in Central London. Ratner has provided harrowing accounts of the ‘Special Administrative Measures’ (SAMs) applied to prisoners suspected of terrorism once within the US judicial system – a regime that included 23 out of 24 hours in solitary confinement. You may think that in Britain we do not know the significance of Florence ADX, but you will be surprised.
  • As Sir Iqbal Sacranie stated in the House of Commons on 20th June, if there was a referendum in Britain today supporting redrafting of the US-UK Extradition Treaty to remove its imbalances, then there will be an overwhelming support across the nation. Mr Ambassador, your statement to British Parliamentarians “it is not the case, as some claim, that it is easier to extradite someone from the UK than from the U.S.” will no longer wash. Bodies such as ‘Free Trials International’ have educated the British public that Britain has to satisfy the threshold of ‘reasonable suspicion’ while the bar for the US is lower – the ‘probable cause’ test.
  • Mr Ambassador, you will know that Babar and Talha have already been held under detention for 8 and 6 years respectively. This has been punishment enough. Extradition will be further punishment. The will be in a US prison throughout the lengthy phase from the plea bargain phase to the trial-ready stage. They will be away from family, friends and lawyers familiar with their cases over the years. Thus far there have been no acquittals in the 500 or so ‘terrorism’ trials in the US.

    Mr Ambassador, the time is now for forbearance and compassion and readiness to recognise error. Mistakes do happen: before your tenure commenced in the UK, there was a young Algerian pilot named Lotfi Raissi who was arrested in London at the request of US authorities. A British judge then found there was no credibility to the US claims of his terrorist connections. This was only possible because the hearing took place before the current US-UK Extradition Treaty.

    The State Department declares its mission to be to “shape and sustain a peaceful, prosperous, just, and democratic world and foster conditions for stability and progress for the benefit of the American people and people everywhere”. If your Government presses ahead with these extraditions, then certainly for the people of Great Britain this statement rings hollow. It is a time for forbearance –in the spirit exhibited by Margaret Thatcher, when even after the horrific Brighton bombings of 1984, her soft spot for the US did not lead her to press for the extradition of US citizens providing financial support to the Provisional Irish Republican Army.

    Please act today.

    Yours sincerely

    A Concerned Muslim
    June 2012