House of Lords Select Committee on Extradition refers to Talha Ahsan case – Oral Evidence by LIBERTY Policy Director Isabella Sankey on 23 July 2014

House of Lords Select Committee on Extradition refers to Talha Ahsan case
Oral Evidence by LIBERTY Policy Director Isabella Sankey
on 23 July 2014

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Download PDF Transcript here :

Quotes – Isabella Sankey - Page 6:

“If you look at the cases over which the public have been most concerned —the cases of Richard O’Dwyer, Babar Ahmad and Talha Ahsan—you see that the concern really stems from cases that are deemed to be disproportionate, as in the case of Richard O’Dwyer, where it is clearly not in the public interest to extradite a young student for a copyright offence: for setting up a website as part of his studies at university. As with both of those, and also with Gary McKinnon’s case, the activity took place wholly in the UK. People feel, I think understandably, a great sense of unfairness that, in these cases of concurrent jurisdiction, there are currently not proper processes in place to ensure that we get the first bite of the cherry as to whether we want to bring a prosecution here. There is an effective bar to prosecution in those cases. Again, it comes back to not whether or not the systems are equal, but whether we have the right protections for our citizens. That is what we think the public is so concerned about.”

Isabella Sankey – Page 12:
“Could I just quickly illustrate, using the case of Babar Ahmad, why I do not think that
interpretation stacks up? He and Talha Ahsan may have had the brightest and the best
federal prosecutors going after them. Last week, the federal prosecutors were severely
criticised by a US judge for the evidence that they brought to secure very long sentences for
the two men. She was highly critical of their evidence and their approach, and gave much
lower sentences than the federal prosecutors were after, so I do not think it is a question of
the quality of the prosecutors or otherwise. On the issue of who has got the best case of the
two prosecuting authorities, Babar Ahmad’s case clearly shows that the evidence and the
witnesses for his alleged activities were all in the UK. In fact, the Metropolitan Police
handed over evidence to their US equivalents, so there is obviously a high degree of
co-operation between the prosecuting authorities. I do not think any of the cases that I am
familiar with demonstrate that, in these cases where forum is an issue, the US necessarily
has a stronger case before they co-operate with the UK.”

Isabella Sankey – Page 24 on USA Plea-bargain system:
“We do have a view on that and also your earlier question about pressure to plea bargain. I think there is an increased pressure on those who are extradited from the UK, not only because there is such a difference between possible length of sentence in a way that, for many offences, there is not in the UK, because the US has much higher sentences for many crimes, but also because, as part of a plea bargain, the issue of where you get to serve your sentence often comes into play. For people who are far away from home without
support, facing an alien justice system, the idea that you will be able to serve a period of your sentence back in the UK is always going to be much more comforting. There is an increased pressure to plea bargain and that is something that certainly should be taken into account in extradition decisions made by our judges.”

Isabella Sankey on Prima-facie evidence case – page 26:
“In anumber of cases, it is clear that the evidence that the US claims that they had was not there. In the case of Lotfi Raissi, when we did have a prima facie safeguard on the statute book, back in 2003, his extradition was rejected because the US did not make a basic case. Taking the prosecution’s case at its highest, there was no case to answer. So there is an example. In the Babar Ahmad case that I just mentioned, the US judge in that case was highly critical of the evidence that the US prosecutors brought and said showed that material support to terrorists had been provided. There are a few anecdotal examples I can give you, but it is not my impression at all that a much more stringent test is exercised by US prosecutors before going after prosecutions”

Isabella Sankey on domestic prosecution p26. :”all of these issues that we are grappling with are incredibly difficult—the plea bargaining, issues to do with the politicisation of judges in the US and the differences in our justice systems. We believe this is all the more reason why there need to be other procedural safeguards in place, which would in a way help you get around some of these more fundamental contradictions between our justice systems. Having an effective forum bar on the statute book, for example, would mean that we were not outsourcing so many prosecutions to the US of people who have allegedly done things here in the UK. It means we would not have to get into these very difficult assessments as to the pressure to plea bargain, the treatment they might receive in the US, in US prisons. One very easy way to deal with a lot of these issues is to make sure we have better procedural
safeguards so that the case can be barred for a different reason and somebody can be prosecuted here.”

LIBERTY general view on extradition, p27: “We just think that too many safeguards have been given away. With so many of the cases where forum is an issue, potential victims are here in the UK just as they are in the US, and more evidence is often here. To us, it just seems to make no sense to have to send so many people to face justice abroad when they could quite easily be brought to justice here, but we do not deny the importance of extradition at all.”

Isabella Sankey on (lack of) logic connection to the United States. p.30: “That logical connection could be as small as a computer being used with a US server based in the US for a matter of months.”

Isabella Sankey on Forum Bar reform, p. 31 : “We believe that, in all cases, there should be a forum bar that could be argued by somebody who has not left the jurisdiction. It will then be up to a UK court to determine whether extradition should be barred on forum grounds.”


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