Syed Talha Ahsan was born on September 21, 1979 in London, England. Talha Ahsan suffers from Asperger’s syndrome, which is a form of autism disorder. He graduated with first class honors in Arabic from School of Oriental and Arabic Studies (SOAS) at the University of London. After graduating from SOAS, Ahsan became an award-winning poet. He received a Koestler Award for his poem “Grieving.” From 1997-2004 he worked for a series of websites known as Azzam Publications. After the conclusion of his work with Azzam Publications he sought a position to train as a librarian.

Suddenly, at the request of the United States government, Syed Talha Ahsan was arrested on July 19, 2006. Under the UK Extradition Act of 2003, United Kingdom citizens can be extradited to the United States to face legal punishment. He was never questioned by British authorities about his alleged illegal activities. The United States government did not have to offer forth any evidence before arresting Ahsan under the extradition law. In this case, one of the servers for the Azzam Publications website was contained within the United States, giving the American government the ability to prosecute the British citizen.

Syed Talha Ahsan was then held without trial for six years in a high security prison in the United Kingdom. During this period of time he petitioned the European Courts of Human Rights not to be extradited to the United States due to the use of solitary confinement as a punishment, which is not practiced in the United Kingdom. His petitions were denied and in October of 2012 Ahsan was brought before a U.S. District Court judge in Connecticut.

According to prosecutors, Azzam Publications was supposedly used to “find funding, recruits and equipment” for Chechen Mujahideen and the Taliban in Afghanistan. As a result, Ahsan was charged with “conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists and kill, kidnap, maim or injure persons or damage property in a foreign country.”  Ahsan initially pleaded not guilty, and was placed in solitary confinement at Northern Correctional Institute in Connecticut.  In December 2013 — after spending over 14 months in almost complete isolation — Ahsan pleaded guilty to to one count of conspiracy to provide material support and one count of providing material support to terrorists.  Ahsan’s sentencing is schedule for early March 2014; he faces up a maximum prison term of 15 years.

Because of his Asperger’s syndrome a psychiatrist has recommended that rather than placing him in prison it is better to place him in specialist care for adults with autistic disorders for his mental health and wellbeing, yet Ahsan is still being held in a prison.

 Resources:

A website dedicated to freeing Syed Talha Ahsan: http://freetalha.org/about/ This particular section of the site explains Syed Talha Ahsan’s background, how he was arrested, how he is being treated and how people interested in his cause can help him his quest to be free from incarceration.

A website, Project SALAM, which contains a database for many terror suspects. A search of this database for a profile of Ashan reveals a basic outline of the plight of Syed Talha Ashan, charges against him and related sites important to his case: http://www.projectsalam.org/fmi/iwp/cgi?-db=MIP_MIP&-loadframes

“Solitary confinement is no place for a poet: The poet Talha Ahsan is awaiting extradition to the US, where he faces a life in detention virtually deprived of human contact”: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2012/may/09/solitary-confinement-talha-ahsan-poet An article by award winning author AL Kennedy. The article illuminates the power of communication. Kennedy notes that while she has never met Ahsan face to face she has been able to encounter the power of Ahsan’s words. Kennedy notes the vast potential for abuse, mistreatment and torture underneath current US imprisonment policy. Kennedy laments Ahsan’s loss of freedom to communicate.