Ahsan, 32, won a further Bronze award for his poetry collection of the same title. The news was publicly announced to a packed audience at the “Extradite Me, I’m British” event held this month at London’s Rich Mix venue, where actress Manjinder Virk and comedian Jeff Mirza read the detainee’s poetry.
In response, Ahsan’s local MP and Labour's Shadow Justice Secretary Sadiq Khan said: “It is often through adversity that the flame of creativity is ignited and brilliant, if somewhat harrowing, art is produced. Talha’s award for his poetry is recognition of his talent in this art form but also highlights the ongoing struggle that he faces with his continued incarceration without trial”.
Talha has previously published a poetry booklet in prison titled “This be the Answer” launched in Edinburgh in 2011 by novelist A.L Kennedy. Ahsan has previously written poetry about the Extradition and a satirical poem about current Home Secretary Theresa May. Kennedy in a public statement of support said : “That Talha has been imprisoned for years without trial in my country shames me as a UK citizen... That my government would give Talha no assistance in a time of absolute need and would, in fact, help engineer his distress is another indication of its utterly reckless, unsustainable and inhuman stance on human rights.”
Talha’s brother Hamja Ahsan, 31, an arts curator by profession, who leads a nationwide campaign to reform the 2003 Extradition law and obtain a fair UK trial for his brother, said “Talha’s poetry touches and impresses many people in all the cities I have travelled from Cardiff to Glasgow to Birmingham, reducing people to tears. His comic poems have made whole crowds of people laugh out loud. He may be extradited to face years of pre-trial solitary confinement in the USA which all evidence shows cause irreversible mental damage. His beautiful creative mind will be gone.” Ahsan has been diagnosed with Aspergers syndrome like the high-profile extradition case Gary Mckinnon, leading medico-legal reports to state he was vulnerable and at risk.
Talha has been detained over 6 years without trial, charge or prima facie evidence on the controversial 2003 US-UK Extradition treaty on allegations relating to association with a foreign jihad website from 1997-2001 covering Bosnia, Chechnya and Afghanistan. His family-run campaign had attracted the support of other poets including Children poet laureate Michel Rosen and African poet Shaija Patel.
A film called “Extradition” about his case and his co-defendent Babar Ahmad is currently touring the UK. Framed around Talha’s prison poetry, it stars performance poet Avaes Mohammad and their solicitor Gareth Peirce.
A new collection of his prison poetry is expected to be published soon.
Notes to editors:
1. Koestler Awards are an annual nationwide award for writers in prison, that has run from 1962 - 2012. The awards receive over 7,000 entries a year. The national exhibition of the work attracts 14,000 visitors, and this year runs from 20 September – 25 November at
London’s Southbank Centre http://www.koestlertrust.org.
2. “Extradite Me, I’m British” was a cultural event held at London’s Rich Mix 8th September 7pm -11pm also in support of his co-defendant Babar Ahmad, Richard O Dwyer, and Gary Mckinnon. “Extradition film plus comedian and actor Jeff Mirza will be reading Talha's comic love sonnet to Theresa May; other speakers included awarding winning novelist A.L Kennedy; David Bermingham (one of the Natwest Three), former Guantanamo detainee Moazzam Begg, journalist Victoria Brittain and comedian Ahir Shah, fresh from the Edinburgh Festival. Image of Manjinder Virk reading the prize winning poem here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/
3. A.L Kennedy's article on Talha Ahsan: “Solitary Confinement is no place for a Poet” can be found at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/
Rich Mix, 35 - 47 Bethnal Green Road, London, E1 6LA
Book tickets here:
Guests include A. L. Kennedy, Victoria Brittain, Moazzam Begg & others to be announced -
Extradition Film screenings -
New film about Talha Ahsan & Babar Ahmad