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The Babar Ahmad Petition: Lessons from Tahrir Square

Written by Fahad Ansari Thursday, 06 October 2011
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Babar Ahmad is a British citizen who has been incarcerated in a maximum security prison in the UK for over seven years … without trial.

On 18 January 2011, 26-year old Asmaa Mahfouz posted a video blog on her Facebook page urging Egyptians to attend the anti-Government demonstration scheduled to take place in Tahrir Square a week later. Such a rally was unthinkable in Hosni Mubarak’s Egypt with most Egyptians reluctant to attend, both out of fear of the repercussions and out of despondency that it could bring about any positive change.
 
Mahfouz was undeterred:
 
"If you have honor and dignity as a man, come and protect me, and other girls in the protest. If you stay home, you deserve what's being done to you, and you will be guilty before your nation and your people. Go down to the street, send SMSes, post it on the internet, make people aware…Whoever says it is not worth it because there will only be a handful of people, I want to tell him, 'You are the reason behind this, and you are a traitor, just like the president or any security cop who beats us in the streets.’"
 
Her courage and enthusiasm was infectious. The video was uploaded to YouTube and within days, went viral. On 25 January, tens of thousands of Egyptians took to the streets, not just in Tahrir Square but throughout the country, eventually bringing down the regime of Hosni Mubarak.
 
And it all started with a desperate call to action from one woman.
 
Babar Ahmad is a British citizen who has been incarcerated in a maximum security prison in the UK for over seven years … without trial. He has no previous criminal record and has never been tried for the allegations made against him. The British government intends to extradite him to the US for crimes he is alleged to have committed in the UK in the 1990s. Under the Extradition Treaty signed between the UK and US, a suspect cannot challenge the evidence against him. The fallacy of this Treaty lies in the fact that the same evidence which the British authorities deemed insufficient to charge Babar with a single offence in the UK, now forms the basis of his extradition and prosecution in the US. So contrary to the rule of law and basic duty of fairness is this Treaty that in June this year, the Houses of Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights urged the British government to change the law so that Babar’s perpetual threat of extradition was ended without further delay.
 
Babar is the longest detained-without-trial British citizen in the modern history of the UK. He has repeatedly requested that he be tried in a British court before a jury of his peers. He is willing to face up to any allegation against him. His family have launched an e-petition on the government website calling for him to be tried in the UK. If 100,000 signatures are obtained before 10 November 2011, the issue will become eligible for parliamentary debate.
 
This is the people of Britain’s opportunity to rescue not just Babar but others such as Gary McKinnon, who have similarly been ensnared by the Extradition Treaty with the US. 100,000 signatures may seem an unreachable target but then again who could have foreseen the fall of Mubarak following the courageous message from Asmaa Mahfouz, whose words I shall leave you with:
 
"As long as you say there is no hope, then there will be no hope, but if you go down and take a stance, then there will be hope."
 
On 11 February 2011, Mubarak resigned. After 30 years of ruling with an iron fist, it took just 17 days to topple one of the most brutal dictators in living memory.
 
There is little time remaining. Sign the petition today and forward to all your contacts:
 

2 comments

  • Comment Link Fahad Ansari Friday, 07 October 2011 21:52 posted by Fahad Ansari

    thanks fir your comment Martin, the petition has a number of functions. Not only may it trigger parliamentary debate if target is reached but it also increases awareness and public pressure by default, even if target not met but tens of thousands of people sign. Already we have managed to raise awareness through the petition among many people who were totally oblivious to Babar's case.

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  • Comment Link Malcolm Bush Friday, 07 October 2011 21:31 posted by Malcolm Bush

    A very good and important article, but I don't think the petition will have much effect. Whilst we need to keep up the pressure towards the government; more public support is needed. I don't have many ideas has to how that could be achieved; apart from highlighting how ambiguous the whole list of similar cases are.

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