Babar Ahmad and Talha Ahsan today lost their appeal for a stay on their extradition to the United States. For upholders of human rights and civil liberties, Friday 5th October 2012 will be a black letter day. It is the day when the pleas of two British citizens to be tried in a British court came to naught. It is the day when the Metropolitan Police emerged scott free from having to explain why the information collected from Babar Ahmad's home was provided to the US prosecutor but not to our own Crown Prosecution Service. This was the day when the Government's media strategy of linking the cases of Abu Hamza with those of Babar Ahmad and Talha Ahsan yielded its malevolent fruits. It will take a very long time for trust to be restored.
One of the judges at their hearing remarked to the QC representing the pair, I don't think you have any idea how most ordinary people see what is happening. The tabloid press has continuously described Babar and Talha as terrorism suspects'. If you repeat a lie often enough it can become a truth. Tragically the pair were not given the opportunity to have their day in a British court and respond to the charges from the CPS of breaking British law. It was a case of guilty unless proven innocent.
The honourable judge's view of ordinary people does not augur well for trust in British justice. It has marginalised a swathe of British society, including many Muslims
, who are utterly opposed to this extradition. This is an alliance that includes many Parliamentarians - as is evident from the debates in both Houses - civil society leaders such as Bruce Kent, city mayors including Boris Johnson, many churchmen including Father Joseph Ryan, Chair of the Justice & Peace Commission of Westminster Diocese and also trade unionists. Over 150,000 signed a petition for Babar Ahmad to be tried in the UK. There will now be a great deal of anger and bitterness among these disenfranchised unordinary' people and sections of Muslim youth. As a last-ditch effort, the MCB has written to President Obama
and the US Attorney General calling on them to waive the extradition request.
Justice has been undone today. Along with it notions of a sovereign British legal system. For those of us fighting for notions of shared British values, our task has been made much harder.