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Wednesday, October 21, 1998 Published at 11:25 GMT 12:25 UK


Shayler starts extradition hearing

David Shayler: In a Paris jail since August

A French court will be asked on Wednesday afternoon to decide whether the former MI5 officer, David Shayler, should be extradited to the UK over accusations of breaking the Officials Secrets Act.

BBC Legal Affairs Correspondent Joshua Rozenberg: "Mr Shayler's claims given credence"
Mr Shayler has claimed that the UK Government's intelligence service tried to kill the Libyan leader, Colonel Gaddafi.

Mr Shayler's lawyers are expected to argue that the government's application for extradition is politically motivated and should be dismissed.

Just before the court hearing Mr Shayler said the UK Government was pursuing him out of "cowardice" and not because his revelations posed any real risk to national security.

BBC Legal Affairs Correspondent Joshua Rozenberg: "Political charges not covered by Euro Convention"
He said even a police report compiled by Special Branch concluded that "these disclosures would not cause serious damage to the work of the security services or national security".

He believed that the UK Government would base its prosecution on the fact that he showed journalists copies of official documents, rather than on the disclosures he made in the press.

"This shows real cowardice on the part of the government."

"If they really believe I should not have made my disclosures in the press they should prosecute me for those. Nevertheless, I have nothing to fear from the trial," he said.

Custody since August

Mr Shayler, 32, was arrested by French police in Paris at the request of British authorities on 1 August.

[ image: Mr Wadham: No to extradition]
Mr Wadham: No to extradition
He has been held in custody there ever since.

His lawyer John Wadham, director of the civil liberties group Liberty, will represent him for the one-day hearing at the Palais de Justice in the French capital.

Mr Wadham is urging the UK Government to "discontinue this unfair procedure".

"The Official Secrets Act is so unfair that when the act was going through Parliament, the current prime minister, home secretary, attorney-general and others in cabinet and government voted against it."

Gaddafi 'has evidence'

The extradition hearing commences just as Colonel Gaddafi, speaking to the BBC, has backed Shayler's claims that the British secret service plotted to assassinate the Middle East leader.

Mr Shayler's girlfriend Annie Machon - also a former MI5 officer - has said they both knew they were bound by the Official Secrets Act.

But she added: "We both felt there's a higher moral duty if you see things going badly wrong, people losing their lives because of ineptitude within an organisation, particularly one as secretive and unaccountable as MI5."

She said a trial in Britain would be very "high profile" and "embarrassing" for MI5.

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Campaign for Freedom of Information

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