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Issue 282, Friday 26 October 2012 - 10 Dhu al-Hijjah 1433
British justice for all – except Muslims?
This month has seen two major travesties of justice: firstly the execution of the extradition of British citizens Babar Ahmad and Talha Ahsan, even though they should have been tried here in the UK and secondly, the double standards between Talha and Gary McKinnon in their treatment by the Home Secretary, Theresa May.
The extradition treaty between the US and UK is in essence the subcontracting of British justice to a foreign power as outlined in our April editorial, and is considered uncontroversially and blatently one-sided by almost everyone except the former Court of Appeal Judge, Scott Baker. Even May, who cites the Baker Report to defend the Treaty, yielded to public pressure and was forced to propose the introduction of a ‘forum bar’ to try and mitigate the dangers of the one-sided Treaty.
However, earlier this month, Babar and Talha were extradited to the US based on this very treaty. Let us forget for the moment that the police admitted beating Babar up; that both have been held in prison without charge for 8 and 6 years respectively; and that the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) consider there to be insufficient evidence to try Babar here. Let us even assume that they have a case to answer as they very well might. The question is one of justice and fairness: their possible crime should not be ignored – rather, their families and human rights groups have been demanding that they are tried here in the UK as British citizens to face British justice. Extradition in and of itself is not wrong (e.g. if someone commits a crime in the US and flees to the UK), but how can it be that whilst in Britain, a British citizen can be subject to the law of a foreign nation, for which he/she neither has the right to vote against, nor to challenge in a court of law?
In contrast, Gary McKinnon was not extradited to the US which followed the rescinding of the extradition order on October 17. It is worth pausing for a moment to consider the similarities between the cases of Talha who was extradited and Gary who was not. First, the crime: both were accused of computer-related terror activity: Gary for hacking into the US military computers; Talha for setting up a website allegedly to support terrorism. Next, the evidence: Gary has admitted his guilt; Talha pleads innocent (and furthermore, the CPS considered the evidence to be insufficient to warrant trial against his co-accused Babar). Finally, the mitigating circumstances: both have Asperger’s Syndrome and a similar suicide risk assessment.
Given the similarity in the cases, one might predict similar treatment for the two but this has not been the case: Gary was allowed out on bail for ten years; Talha was detained without charge or trial for over 6 years in high security prisons and in legal limbo. Gary was supported by the right-wing press (in particular the Daily Mail), the National Autistic Society and by senior politicians, including Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg and London Mayor, Boris Johnson; Talha was associated and lumped together with the poster boy of the right-wing press: a brown Muslim Arab immigrant with a hook for a hand on state benefits – Abu Hamza. In the end, Gary was set free with May rescinding the extradition order, citing the Human Rights Act which she has ardently opposed for years, whilst a week earlier, Talha was extradited without even allowing his mental status to be examined. Very different outcomes for very similar cases.
Do we seriously think that if a brown Muslim man had committed the same crime as Gary and hacked into the US military computers, they would be supported and saved from extradition? That is just not credible. And do we seriously think that the ‘forum bar’ – a way to ensure the US/UK extradition treaty is made fairer – was only coincidentally proposed to be implemented a week after the British Muslim citizens were extradited? Is it not more realistic to assume that if accepted earlier, it might have ensured the domestic prosecution rather than extradition for Babar Ahmad and Talha Ahsan, or is this something that was just not palatable to the Establishment?
By playing these political games, Home Secretary, Theresa May, has confirmed once and for all that British justice is subservient to the media and political class. No longer can she stand up with any credibility and claim that British justice is independent, transparent and fair to all.
There has long been a lack of confidence amongst those marginalised in our society with the perception that justice is not for them. For Muslims, this has now been vindicated.
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