Share this page
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
Rate this post

Extracts from Syed Talha Ahsan’s Submission to House of Lords Select Committee on the Extradition Law 2014

My name is Syed Talha Ahsan. I am a British citizen born in London, UK. I am 35 years old. I was educated at Dulwich College, South London and the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London. I am diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome – a condition on the autism spectrum. Eight years ago I was on the verge of becoming a professional librarian. I want to share with the Lords Extradition Law Committee some details of my personal experience with extradition.

[…]

  1. On 19 July 2006 I was arrested at my home for extradition to the United States. The police came to my home under the guise of returning my passport. Before I signed for its return I was told an accompanying officer wanted to speak to me who promptly arrested me. I was placed in handcuffs and taken to a waiting car. I was denied bail on the basis of information presented in an affidavit by a US assistant attorney from Connecticut. As I had no right to see the evidence for those allegations I could not challenge my denial of bail.
  2. On 19 March 2007 the Magistrates Court ordered my extradition. At the High Courts on 10 April 2008 I lost both my appeal against extradition and an appeal for judicial review into the decision of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to not charge me in the UK.
  3. There have been significant parliamentary protest in late 2006 about the extradition of UK citizens to the US particularly when they have never left the UK. As a result there was a UK-US agreement that cases would be carefully looked at as to whether they could be more appropriately prosecuted here. Mine was the first case to raise this but the court said it was too late for me and that my case was already linked to Babar Ahmad.
  4. I was classified as a category A prisoner subject to protocols such as regular strip searches. I was held at high security prisons: HMP Belmarsh until 22 January 2008 then the Detainee Unit, HMP Long Lartin where I remained until my extradition on 5 October 2012 (with a stay at HMP Manchester between 13 October 2010 and 6 January 2011 owing to building work at the Detainee Unit). Certain high-profile Muslim preachers, who I avoided when I was growing up for fear they may get me into trouble, were my fellow inmates.
  5. On 9 December 2008 the then Governor, Ferdie Parker, prohibited all members of the Detainee Unit without any individualised risk assessment from mixing with the general population of the prison. We were no longer allowed to mix with mainstream prisoners for use of the gym, education or Friday prayers.
  6. After a visit to the Detainee Unit on 4 April 2011 HM Inspectorate of Prisons reported that “too little attention was paid to their uniquely isolated and uncertain position.”
  7. Ten days after my extradition the Home Secretary allowed Gary McKinnon, with whom I share the same medical conditions, to remain in the UK based upon associative risks. A psychiatric report in 2009 by Dr Quinton Deeley, one of the country’s leading authorities on autism, also described my vulnerabilities to suicidal ideation stating: “It should be noted that by virtue of his Asperger’s syndrome and depressive disorder, Mr Ahsan is an extremely vulnerable individual who, from a psychiatric perspective, would be more appropriately placed in a specialist service for adults with autistic disorders and co-morbid mental health problems, with a level of security dictated by his risk assessment”. I noted that the Home Secretary procrastinated in her decision for Mr Mckinnon, who had long exhausted all remedies against extradition, until my ECtHR case had been dismissed and I had been extradited.

My Case in the US

  1. In the US I was held in solitary confinement at Northern Correctional Institution (NCI), the state supermax of Connecticut. I was housed in the same block as Death Row inmates. There were multiple suicide attempts and incidents of self-harm during my stay there.
  2. On 10 December 2013 as part of a plea bargain for a sentence cap at fifteen years and facilitation to serve the sentence in the UK, I pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists and one count of providing material support to terrorists. I was not guilty of either but I otherwise faced the potential of receiving a life sentence if a jury convicted me in an atmosphere of serious prejudice.
  3. In February 2012, Lord Carlile QC, the former reviewer of anti-terrorism legislation, described in an interview with Sky news that the plea bargain system in the US was “appalling” and “intimidating.” He said about one defendant: “Who can resist that sort of pressure? It is irrelevant whether the evidence he gives here is true or false, whether the plea he gives is true or false. It is the process. If you examine English law, particularly the Police and Criminal Evidence Act, then most American plea bargains would not be admitted as part of the English evidential system.”
  4. Nigel Farage, leader of UKIP, has also criticised the plea bargain system. In March 2012 Kent News reported Mr Farage saying about one defendant: “It’s not a fair judicial system and I think it is unlikely he will get bail due to this as I imagine they will make his stay as unpleasant as possible to make him plead guilty.” He also described US prisons as “absolutely brutal.” It is not a controversial or radical position to find fault with the US judicial system and its prisons.
  5. On 16 July 2014 Judge Janet Hall sentenced me to credit for time served.  I was taken into immigration custody and held at medium security county jails. I wore leg shackles and handcuffs tied to a belly chain when transported from the holding centre to the airport up until the point I entered the aeroplane. I returned to the UK on 21 August.
  6. During domestic extradition proceedings I was represented by Gareth Peirce of Birnberg Peirce & Partners. In the US I was represented by Richard Reeve and Anand Balakrishnan of Sheehan & Reeve. I have no prior convictions.
  1. Removal to the US and Conditions of Incarceration
  1. Prior to my extradition I had never visited the US. I knew no relatives there or any friends. The first time I set foot in the US, I was wearing a jumpsuit in handcuffs and leg shackles while deprived of sight and sound by goggles and ear muffs.
  2. During my time in UK custody I had a clean disciplinary record. I was described by Ferdie Parker, then governor of HMP Long Lartin, as a “model prisoner.” Since 2007 after regular reviews I continually maintained Enhanced status as an inmate. I was entitled to the maximum privileges given to inmates at high security prisons, including wearing my own clothes, cooking my own food and using a fully equipped gym. None of these features were available during my time in solitary confinement.
  3. At an RAF base I was processed by US Homeland Security handlers in the presence of British extradition police. During times when I had to wait for others to finish I was made to sit facing a corner as a Homeland Security handler stood over me. I could only use the toilet with the door open in full view of the handler. Our bodies were examined, including below the waist undressed, and photographs were taken. I was not permitted to communicate with my co-defendant sitting beside me. I was boarded separately upon a private jet in handcuffs and leg shackles deprived of sight and hearing flanked by two handlers who took me on a zig-zag route. Once the plane was in flight the goggles and ear muffs were removed. I remained in handcuffs and leg shackles throughout the five – hour flight. When it was time to eat my right hand was uncuffed while my left hand remained secured to the belly chain. Once again, to use the toilet the door had to remain open and in full view of a handler. In every other regard, the FBI agents and the Homeland Security handlers were respectful and polite.
  4. When we landed in Connecticut the goggles and ear muffs were put back on. I was escorted into a vehicle and driven to the Federal Courthouse in New Haven where I was guided into a holding cell before the goggles and ear muffs were removed. Our arraignment occurred a few hours later and we had the opportunity to meet our attorneys shortly before. After our arraignment we were placed in handcuffs tied to a belly chain and shackled with leg irons before being taken by the US Marshals in an armed convey of vehicles to NCI.
  5. At NCI I was taken into a small holding cell. I was surrounded by Correctional Officers (COs) who held me as they took off my clothes. My hair and beard were examined. My glasses were confiscated. I was made to squat and cough while undressed below the waist. I was placed in a Ferguson anti-suicide smock – a one piece garment made of polyester held together with velcro. I had no undergarments. My shoes and socks were confiscated and I was given paper slippers. I was handcuffed behind my back and tethered to leg shackles. I was examined by medical staff and then escorted by COs down a long concrete tunnel with no natural light.
  6. I was placed in a concrete cell which had only a metal bed frame, a mattress and a safety blanket. There was also a steel sink-toilet unit.  I was told to lie face down on the bunk. The leg shackles were removed. The paper slippers were taken too. I attempted to get up but I was told to remain in place. After the door closed I was told to approach the trap and the handcuffs were removed too.
  7. I was not allowed soap, a toothbrush or a pen. I had to request toilet paper from COs who passed my cell for inspection every 15 minutes. The toilet could only be flushed by a CO with a switch outside the cell. The faucet water ran for one minute with a one minute delay. Meals were served in polystyrene cups without utensils. I requested vegetarian food but was refused. There was a window in the door a few inches wide and two feet long for observation. There was a similar window at the back of the cell that faced onto a brick wall. There was no way to know the time without asking a CO. Some of the COs were telling inmates that a terrorist has been placed in the cell.
  8. After four days in these conditions I was taken out to see the doctor. I was strip searched and placed in handcuffs tethered to leg shackles behind my back. I walked barefoot on concrete to the medical room. I was then placed in a normal cell that had a metal desk and stool. I was given two yellow jumpsuits and 3 changes of undergarment. My glasses were returned a few days later. It was only after the Vice-Consul, Jacqueline Greenlaw, visited that I received basic toiletries, pens and shower shoes.
  9. Some of the COs, in particular Mssrs. Orcutt and Congelos, had a campaign of hostility against me. At breakfast time they would recite the pledge of allegiance outside my door. They told other inmates I was a terrorist. They would conduct frequent “shake down” searches of my cell. They would be excessive in strip searches. I also believed they tampered with my food as my cell was in a blind spot. I raised the matter with the prison chaplain, Deacon Bernd, and the counsellor. They were eventually moved.
  10. I was unable to make a telephone call to my family for over a month. Every time I left my cell I was strip searched and placed in handcuffs tethered to leg shackles. I had showers wearing leg shackles. I exercised alone in the recreation yard. I was always polite and respectful with staff. I never got a “ticket” or disciplinary offence. After some months I no longer had to leave my cell wearing handcuffs or leg shackles unless during lockdowns or for transportation.

Source: http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/extradition-law-committee/extradition-law/written/12925.html

 

  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •