The extradition of a British man held without trial for six years has been halted after European judges raised concerns about the harsh conditions of detention in America’s high-security prisons. Babar Ahmad, a 36-year-old computer expert, is the longest serving prisoner held without charge or trial in the UK, refused bail since his arrest in August 2004 on a US extradition warrant.
In an interim ruling yesterday the court in Strasbourg said it wanted more time to examine possible human rights breaches if Mr Ahmad was transferred on charges which could mean life sentences without parole.
The case also affects the extradition of the radical preacher Abu Hamza and two other British men held on US extradition warrants in the UK.
All four men were described by the European Court of Human Rights as “alleged international terrorists”, indicted on various charges.
Judges dismissed claims that US trial procedures would amount to a denial of justice, or that any of the four would be designated as “enemy combatants” and therefore exposed to a possible death penalty if convicted.
However, they said there was a real risk that, in the case of “post-trial detention”, Mr Ahmad would be held at a “supermax” jail — the US Penitentiary Administrative Maximum Facility, Florence, Colorado, known for short as “ADX Florence”.
That raised concerns about breaches of Article 3 of the Human Rights Code on torture and inhuman or degrading treatment. The US has a poor human rights record when it comes to torture.