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Thursday, 19 November, 1998, 18:10 GMT
Charges against spy were political
david shayler
Shayler: Free after four months in jail
The French court which refused to extradite the former MI5 officer, David Shayler, did so because it believed his alleged crimes were politically motivated, it has been confirmed.

However, as the court in Paris published its full judgment, Home Secretary Jack Straw denied the UK's pursuit of Mr Shayler was politically motivated.

Whitehall is now bracing itself for further possible revelations from Mr Shayler, who is believed to be holed up in a luxury hotel with representatives of a Sunday newspaper which has bought his story.

Allegations

Mr Shayler was freed from jail on Wednesday after the UK's extradition request was rejected.

Following his release he 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."

gaddafi
Colonel Gaddafi: Survived assassination bid
The 32-year-old former intelligence agent had been arrested in France at Scotland Yard's request in August. He faces two charges under the Official Secrets Act.

The charges followed allegations the former spy made to a Sunday newspaper.

He claimed that officers from the UK's foreign intelligence service, MI6, tried to organise the assassination of the Libyan leader, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. London has denied being involved in the failed assassination plot.

Political acts

Mr Shayler has always maintained that his disclosures were intended to expose malpractices within the security services.

He is now free to make more revelations safe in the knowledge that while he remains in France he cannot be prosecuted.

The extradition judgment effectively states that, under the French penal code, any revelations of defence secrets are, by definition, political and immune from any extradition agreements currently in force between the UK and France.

shayler
Mr Shayler's brothers greet him on his release
The six-page judgment explains that the court's decision was based on a 1957 extradition convention between the two countries - because a 1996 accord which hugely dilutes the importance of "political" acts is not yet in force.

Under the convention there will be no extradition for any offence which is considered to be a political offence or to be related to a political offence.

Under a 1927 French law a political offence is considered to be anything which damages or attacks "in some way" the functioning of public agencies.

'No political motive'

However, Mr Straw rejected the thrust of the judgment.

"This prosecution was in no way politically motivated," he said.

He said the UK would study the judgment in full before deciding whether to ask the French prosecutor to lodge an appeal on its behalf. Under French law any appeal would have to argue that the court had been wrong on a point of law.

Mr Straw would not be drawn on whether Mr Shayler would be jailed immediately if he returned to Britain.

He said: "That is not a matter for me. It is a matter for the prosecution authorities who are independent of the home secretary."

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