THE European Court of Human Rights has backed the extradition of five men from the UK to the US which intends to put them into maximum security prisons for the rest of their lives.
The court found that being held in permanent solitary confinement in a US ‘supermax’ prison is not a violation of human rights.
The court sanctioned the extradition of Abu Hamza, Babar Ahmad and three others.
Babar Ahmad, a 37-year-old man from Tooting, was first arrested in December 2003, and has already served over eight years in the UK without charge or trial.
Days after this arrest he was released without charge, and accused the arrest team of assault. The Metropolitan Police admitted he was severely assaulted and paid him £60,000 compensation.
However, in August 2004, he was arrested again after the US sought his extradition. He has now been in prison ever since, a record for the longest time that a British citizen has been detained without trial in modern times.
The US accuses Ahmad of running a website called Azzam.com which it alleges encouraged young Muslims in the West to support Mujahideen causes – not in itself a crime. Ahmad wants to be tried in the UK and says he is fighting for his life which will be under threat in the US. The Crown Prosecution Service separately concluded that Babar Ahmad could not be prosecuted here.
The first UK judge who examined the case said it was a ‘difficult and troubling case’ because the alleged crimes all took place on websites run in London, not the United States. The US response was that the websites were hosted by a company based in the US State of Connecticut, claiming that this gave them jurisdiction.
Both Ahmad and Hamza say that after conviction they will be held at a special ‘supermax’ prison in the United States called ADX Florence in conditions that include solitary confinement, and amount to torture and inhuman and degrading treatment.
Abu Hamza has already been convicted of soliciting to murder and stirring up racial hatred and was jailed in the UK for seven years. He currently remains in prison. Hamza is one of those that worked with MI6 and the CIA fighting in Afghanistan against the Russian army, but fell out with the US and the UK in the aftermath.
The US indictment against Abu Hamza has 11 allegations. He is accused of a conspiracy to take hostages and hostage taking in Yemen in 1998. He is further accused of planning to establish a training camp in Bly, Oregon, a remote part of north-west United States. Bly residents, in fact, pour scorn on the idea that an Islamic training camp could be established in their midst without their knowledge.
There could still be an appeal against the court’s ruling in its final Grand Chamber – but in practice, very few cases are re-examined.
Solitary confinement is a regular way of life in ‘supermax’ regimes, with prisoners locked up for at least 23 hours each day.
The US is increasingly getting used to being able to extradite British citizens to the US to face trial, either through the unequal extradition treaty negotiated by the former Labour government, which is being used to send alleged hackers and businessmen to the US for trial, without any proof that they have committed an offence, or now by permission of the EU Human Rights court.
In the case of Ahmad the Crown Prosecution Service has said that he has no case to answer. In the case of Hamza there is no proof being advanced for the charges that are being made against him.
Trade unions and civil liberty organisations must protest at all these extraditions, and demand they be halted. Ahmad and Hamza must be freed at once. It is already being said that individual US states have more powers to resist illegal extradition attempts than does the US-dominated UK.