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Wednesday, 12 December, 2001, 13:02 GMT
Ashcroft moves to reassure Europe
FBI Director Robert Mueller with US Attorney General John Ashcroft at a press conference
Mr Ashcroft (R) has faced criticism for his anti-terror laws
US Attorney General John Ashcroft has stressed the importance of international co-operation in bringing suspected terrorists to justice.

He was speaking in London on the first leg of a European tour, where he will be monitoring the progress of law enforcement officials on crushing Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaeda network.

He is hoping to ease the fears of European countries that may be reluctant to extradite suspects who could face the death penalty in the US.


Each case is dealt with independently with regard to extradition from various countries

John Ashcroft
Mr Ashcroft said in London that the complex and controversial extradition process would be dealt with on a "case by case basis".

"Each case is dealt with independently with regard to extradition from various countries," he told journalists at a press conference after meeting British Home Secretary David Blunkett.

"We have been favoured with high levels of cooperation, particularly the French...(and) the UK has been a model partner."

Capital cases

Mr Ashcroft said that several cases - such as that of Algerian suspect Lotfi Raissi, who was arrested in London shortly after the attacks - did not involve "death eligible" charges.

Signatories to the European Convention on Human Rights do not use the death penalty.

Mr Ashcroft is also due to travel to Madrid, Berlin, Brussels and Rome before returning to Washington on Sunday.

His delegation includes several senior FBI officials, lawyers and judges.

Opposition

Mr Ashcroft's European tour begins shortly after he announced the first criminal charges relating to the 11 September attacks in America.

Zacarias Moussaoui
Mr Moussaoui: First person charged over attack

Zacarias Moussaoui, 33, is charged with conspiring with Bin Laden and other suspects to kill thousands in the attacks.

Several suspects linked to the attacks also remain in European custody, including a Moroccan suspect, Mounir al-Motassedeq, who is alleged to have shared a Hamburg apartment with two of the hijackers.

In Spain, eight al-Qaeda members were arrested and others are currently in custody in France, Belgium and Italy.

Methods criticised

Mr Ashcroft has frequently been criticised for his methods in fighting the war against terror, both by European observers and by those in own his country.

US reaction to anti-terror laws
65% concerned about losing human rights
64% approved of giving president power to change previously guaranteed rights
51% feel military tribunals not a good idea
31% view Mr Ashcroft "favourably"
Source: New York Times/CBS News poll

In particular, plans to conduct the trials of terrorism suspects under military jurisdiction have come under fire from civil liberties groups.

Military trials require only a two-thirds majority to secure a guilty conviction, as opposed to the unanimous verdict needed by civilian courts.

A poll conducted by the New York Times and CBS News on Wednesday indicated that more than half of Americans were opposed to military tribunals.

And legislation permitting the FBI to listen in on attorney-client conversations has also been criticised as being against the US Constitution.

The US is currently holding 623 people in detention; however, none as of yet have been proved to have links with Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaeda network.

Investigators also propose to question a further 5,000 Middle Eastern men regarding the attacks, most of whom entered the United States on student or tourist visas.

Immigration relief

In addition, Mr Ashcroft announced towards the end of November that illegal immigrants who offered information on the terrorist attacks would be offered visas and citizenship.

Those coming forward to US authorities with specific intelligence on the attacks in America would be offered "immigration relief" - in some cases permission to stay legally in the US.

"The people who have the courage to make the right choice deserve to be welcomed as guests into our country and perhaps to one day become fellow citizens," he said at the time.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Nick Bryant
"An intelligence failure of catastrophic scale"
The BBC's Guto Harri
"There are about 20 countries looking for new measures"
Johnathan Turley, constitutional lawyer
"Four of the six charges carry a death penalty"
See also:

12 Dec 01 | Americas
France to assist terror suspect
12 Dec 01 | Europe
Germany bans 21 Muslim groups
11 Dec 01 | Americas
America's first accused
11 Dec 01 | Americas
Terror investigation switches focus
11 Dec 01 | Europe
Looking for European al-Qaeda
14 Sep 01 | Europe
FBI 'ignored leads'
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