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Should British citizens expect British justice?

6 October 2012

12:02 PM

6 October 2012

12:02 PM

The High Court yesterday issued a final ruling on the extradition of Abu Hamza and four other men saying they will be handed over to American authorities to stand trial on terrorism charges. It’s unusual for the courts to lump different cases together like this, and that’s one of the things supporters of Babar Ahmad and Syed Talha Ahsan are particularly upset about.

Abu Hamza’s case is relatively straightforward. He will be tried on 11 charges, including the charge that he tried to create a terrorist training camp in the United States.


Two of the other men, Khaled al-Fawwaz and Adel Abdul Bary, are accused of being linked to Osama bin Laden and were indicted in relation to the 1998 twin embassy bombings in East Africa. This case is entirely unconnected to Abu Hamza.

In another entirely separate case, Babar Ahmad and Syed Talha Ahsan, are accused of running an extremist website through which they provided material support to terrorists. Unlike the other cases, both Ahmad and Ahsan are British citizens, and all their alleged offences took place in the United Kingdom. The United States is claiming jurisdiction because one of the servers on which the website was hosted is based there.

Supporters of Ahmad and Ahsan accuse the government of outsourcing British justice to a foreign power. Why, they ask, wouldn’t the Crown Prosecution Service  charge them here if these men provided material support for terrorism? Where should the boundaries of jurisdiction lie when it comes to internet crimes? Why did the police turn over crucial evidence seized from Ahmad’s house to authorities in America without first giving it to CPS here? There are many difficult questions coming out of the Ahmad and Ahsan case.

Yet, lumping all the different extradition hearings together has meant the issues have become fudged. It is too farfetched to argue that Abu Hamza, al-Fawwaz, or Bary shouldn’t be extradited – but what of Ahmad and Ahsan? I must confess to having grown increasingly sympathetic to their plea for a trial here in the United Kingdom – but I turn it over to CoffeeHousers to let us know what you think in the comments section below. Should British citizens expect British justice? Are we outsourcing our criminal justice system?


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