On Saturday 23 June, Bruce Kent gave the following speech at Downing Street immediately before handing in an appeal to the Prime Minister on behalf of Babar Ahmad, Talha Ahsan, Gart McKinnon and Richard O’Dwyer.
We are here today to speak up for these four young British men who may well be flown soon to the United States.
Babar and Talha are said by the US to be guilty of terrorist computer offences. Gary and Richard are said to have been guilty of other computer crimes.
Babar and Talha have already spent eight and six years respectively fighting extradition, an extradition made possible under the terms of a treaty signed by Tony Blair in 2003. It has very few safeguards in it.
Officials in the United States have only to say that this or that man is wanted and the British government is supposed to hand them over. Yet if crimes have been committed, they have all been committed here in this country. These four are all British subjects, born here, at school here. Their families are all here. If they have committed crimes then it is here that they should be charged after evidence has been produced which they have a chance to challenge.
I am proud of many aspects of life in this, my country where I too was born. But the downhill slide of justice in recent years makes me ashamed and fearful about what is going on. Secret evidence, restrictions on jury trials, control orders are all signs of a downhill trend away from the just legal system of which we were once proud. ‘Innocent until proved guilty’ is a wonderful tradition we must never lose. But it is under threat as never before.
These four, on whose behalf we appeal today, do not face physical torture but they face long years in United States detention awaiting trial, probably in solitary confinement far from family and friends. This is torture of a different kind.
All we are asking for is open trials here.
This country is not the 51st State of the United States. We are an independent sovereign nation. There is no natural justice in this extradition process. Worst of all, I can think of no better war of manufacturing radicals and even terrorists than by denying natural justice to young Muslims here in their own country . Cutting corners with the process of justice does nothing for our security but actually increases our insecurity.
I am a Catholic as well as a concerned citizen. We Catholics had centuries of persecution in this country because we too were seen to be disloyal and dangerous. Guy Fawkes did us no favours!
Secret informants, for a reward, could denounce Catholics to the authorities for protecting priests. Their fate could be prison or, in the case of the priest, death of a very horrible sort up on the gallows of Tyburn, now Marble Arch. Those days have gone thank God.
Let us do nothing now to isolate and demonize Muslims in the 21st century in the same way that Catholics were demonized 200 years ago I don’t actually much care if these men are Muslims or Christians or Jews atheists or agnostics. They are, as we all are, human beings entitled to justice.
When Jesus Christ started his mission in the Synagogue in Nazareth he made specific mention of freedom for prisoners. He made it also a reason for favour with God. ‘ When I was a prisoner you visited me’ he told the man who thought he had nothing on his credit card which would stand in his favour at Judgement time. The neighbours we are meant to love like ourselves are not just the nice couple next door. They are those in prison whom we never see.
I call on all those with a spark of compassion - Bishops, Rabbis, Imans, Members of Parliament, all of us - to raise our voices now. Let these men be tried here fairly on proper evidence and be given a chance to defend themselves.
Today we are handing in a letter to Number 10 addressed to David Cameron It is an appeal, to use the words of an old Catholic hymn, for mercy and compassion.
David Cameron - You have children. Think of the desperately worried parents of these men who are in such danger of being sent off to a land where justice for those accused of being terrorists is thin on the ground. Haven’t they spent enough time in prison already?
This is not a Left wing or a Right wing appeal. Many of your natural Conservative supporters will believe, as I do, that we should keep our own British traditions of justice and independence. It won’t be difficult for you to send a message to your legal advisors telling them to find a way around this extradition treaty and its regulations.
Mercy and Compassion is what we are asking for. Please give them now to those on whose behalf we urgently appeal to you.
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