These men will go to the United States...Written by Asim Qureshi Friday, 13 April 2012
“These men will go to the United States and they will be tried there.”
Lord Carlisle’s assessment of those facing extradition to the US may have been correct, but only until a point. Should the worst happen, and the UK government abandon its principles, these men will find themselves facing the prospect of sentences that reach into the hundreds of years. Further, their treatment during the course of their detention, can only be considered inhumane at the very best.
CagePrisoners has been researching the way in which terrorism trials have been conducted in the US and the treatment of detainees prior and post-conviction. Our report, Guantanamo Begins at Home, details cases which highlight serious procedural improprieties in the system for Muslims who are tainted with the accusation of terrorism.
Where Lord Carlisle got it wrong, was in assuming that these men will face trial. The real and inevitable likelihood, is that they will take a plea bargain in order to try and secure some small part of their lives. If they attempt to go to trial, they could potentially face sentences that will far exceed their life span. The last Muslim suspect to be sent to the US was Syed Fahad Hashmi, an American citizen who was detained in isolation for three years before he was set for trial. The day before his trial was due to begin, Hashmi agreed to plea guilty in order to avoid the prospect of a seventy year sentence, effectively sentencing him to die in prison. It was not just the length of the sentence that worried Hashmi, it was also the fact that his case would have an anonymous jury with secret evidence being presented to them. According to his lawyer, David Ruhnke,
“I’d rather be in Guantanamo Bay than [the federal lock up in Manhattan].”
Such a scenario is not rare. Indeed, most cases in the US result in a plea agreement due to the completely disproportionate sentences that are meted out to suspects. The whole system has been constructed against the defendant, as Uzair Paracha found when he decided to plead not guilty. During the case, an so-called terrorism expert, Evan Kohlmann, was given the opportunity to give evidence against Paracha. Kohlmann’s weak analysis was even recognised by the judge, who accepted it on the basis that, “it is more reliable than simple cherry-picking of information from websites and other sources.” However, the reality is that Kohlmann has no academic credibility, and if his testimony were to be presented anywhere other than the US, it would not stand the scrutiny of objectivity. As Tom Mills says of Kohlmann in an article entitled ‘The Doogie Howser of Terrorism?’
“What in particular Kohlmann tends to ‘bring to life’ is connections linking defendants to Al-Qaeda or Osama bin Laden. This, in the political climate of the United States greatly increases the prosecution’s chances of a convinction. As one US defence attorney explains: ‘If a jury in the US finds any connection between your client and Osama bin Laden, you’re going to get convicted.’”
The inherent bias and severe procedural improprieties that currently exist in US courts will ensure that the British men who are facing the prospect of imminent extradition, will in all likelihood choose to plea and hope to return to the UK, rather than face the US justice system and be convicted by a court that is not interested in providing due process.
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