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Poetry against preconceptions - Talha Ahsan

Talha Ahsan is facing extradition to the US following his indictment there for terrorism-related offences. The allegations against him are very similar to the allegations against Babar Ahmad, another British citizen wanted by the US. If convicted in the US, Talha Ahsan would almost certainly have to endure years of isolation in the Federal supermax prison ADX Florence, in Colorado. The European Court of Human Rights will decide on 10th April 2012 whether the extradition of Talha Ahsan, Babar Ahmad and four other men can go ahead.

The comments below, from Talha Ahsan's lawyer Gareth Peirce, are a transcript of her message to the people gathered in Edinburgh in February 2011 for the launch of his poetry collection, "This be the Answer" (published by Radio Ramadan Edinburgh).

Watch the video This Be the Answer - Talha Ahsan's prison poems read by actor Tam Dean Burn and writer A. L. Kennedy.

Free Talha Ahsan

This Be the Answer - Talha Ahsan's poems

He [Talha Ahsan] is a serious and principled and brilliant young man who’s being dragged half way round the world to face prosecution, isolation, life imprisonment for having had some marginal contact with a website as long ago as 2000.

If he is to be tried, if he has participated in something which is unlawful why not try him in his own country? Why is it that we give him over to America to a fate that is unlawful?

The European Court of Human Rights has been preventing this country from extraditing him to America for three and a half years while it is examining ways in which his fundamental rights are likely to be destroyed if he is extradited.

That’s one extraordinary feature of Talha’s position.

But the second is perhaps even more exceptional. In this situation of unfairness that he’s been imprisoned in for now many years, he has nevertheless produced something that is exceptional and that’s his poetry.

Whatever preconceptions anyone might have about a man who has accusations held at him which he is unable at present to respond to, his poetry would destroy them all...

Beautiful poignant love poems but the most powerful of all to my mind which is embedded in my memory now is the poem about a prisoner and his prison guard. As he kneels scrubbing out the toilet he says where is your god now and he replies my god is with me all the time.

Talha’s poetry is quite wonderful were he or were he not in the circumstances he is in. But the circumstances he is in are so terrible that if the root to understanding comes through his poetry to prevent it, to stop it, to campaign against it, then his poetry has served an extra purpose.

Read on its own without anything it is of huge, huge value and is quite wonderful.

Listen to Talha Ahsan's poems