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Thursday, November 19, 1998 Published at 02:47 GMT


Officials study Shayler ruling

David Shayler spent four months in prison

The Home Office is studying the ruling by French judges before deciding whether or not to appeal against the decision to release the former MI5 officer David Shayler.

Tom King, chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee on the One o'clock news
A court in Paris said it was opposed to his extradition because the charges laid against him were "political under French law".

This meant his extradition would be contrary to the European Convention on extradition and contrary to a French law of 1927 defining conditions of extradition.

Joshua Rozenberg: "David Shayler is enjoying his liberty"
As Mr Shayler enjoyed his first taste of freedom in four months, a spokeswoman for the Home Office said: "There is a right of appeal to the Supreme Court on a point of law which we will consider once we have seen the judgement.

"Obviously in terms of an appeal, we would need to seek advice from the French public prosecutor."

[ image: Hugs of delight from Mr Shayler's brothers]
Hugs of delight from Mr Shayler's brothers
Mr Shayler, 32, said: "It's a very happy day for me and civil liberties, and a very sad one and embarrassing one for MI5 and the government."

He was arrested by French police at Scotland Yard's request last August. He faces two charges under the Official Secrets Act.

David Shayler: "Stop persecuting me"
The former MI5 man disclosed information to a Sunday newspaper that officers from the UK Government's foreign intelligence service, MI6, tried to organise the assassination of the Libyan leader, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. The claim was denied by London.

Mr Shayler's 27-year-old brother Jeremy, who joined his other brother, Phil, and Mr Shayler's girlfriend, Annie Machon punched the air and cried "Yes!" when Mr Shayler appeared briefly in the dock to be handed papers confirming that he would not be extradited.

[ image: John Wadham:
John Wadham: "We are delighted"
His British lawyer, John Wadham, director of Liberty, immediately urged the government to acknowledge the outcome by withdrawing its attempts to put Mr Shayler in the dock.

Unless the authorities agree, Mr Shayler will be unable to return to the UK without running the risk of arrest and prosecution.

Mr Wadham said: "We are delighted with the decision. It was unexpected because we did not expect the court to take such a robust decision.

"But the government has to now look at changes to the system to avoid other circumstances like this."

[ image: Miss Machon was also arrested by the MI5]
Miss Machon was also arrested by the MI5
Miss Machon, herself a former spy, described the verdict as "very important" for current employees of Britain's secret intelligence services.

"If they see things are very wrong and feel they have got to follow their conscience and raise concerns, I think they realise now that the law will be behind them to do so," she said.

She called for the establishment of an independent body overseeing MI5 and MI6 to which staff could turn to voice their views.

Last month at a 90-minute hearing in the same court the French public prosecutor had backed the government's extradition request, arguing that Mr Shayler could not claim political intent for exposing secrets.

He claimed Mr Shayler's motive was commercial because a Sunday newspaper had paid him thousands of pounds for his story.

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