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Last Updated: Thursday, 14 February 2008, 18:57 GMT
UK-US extradition deal attacked
Lotfi Raissi
Mr Raissi's supporters say he was "lucky" to be arrested before 2003
The UK's extradition laws have been attacked as "unfair" in the wake of the Appeal Court ruling that a wrongly accused pilot can claim compensation.

If Lotfi Raissi were held under current rules he would have been extradited to the US, the Lib Dems and the human rights group Liberty have said.

They have called for a review of a deal with the US which critics say removes the right to challenge extradition.

The government denies the agreement infringes suspects' human rights.

Fast-track extradition

Court of Appeal judges said evidence suggested there were "serious defaults" in the decision to detain Mr Raissi in prison for nearly five months in 2001 after a US extradition request over alleged links to the 9/11 attacks.

But opponents of a 2003 extradition treaty with the United States say that it was only because Mr Raissi was arrested before it became law that he was able to stay in the UK and challenge the grounds for his removal to the US.

The treaty - signed by Home Secretary David Blunkett and US Attorney General John Ashcroft in March 2003 - removed the requirement of the US government to present evidence to a British court when seeking to extradite a suspect.

If he had been arrested now in exactly the same circumstances then he would simply have been whisked off to the United States
James Welch

In effect, it brought the US into line with other EU countries where extradition can be "fast-tracked" under the 2003 Extradition Act.

Extradition to these countries does not normally require evidence to be provided to a British court - only that there has been a recognised crime committed for which the jail sentence is more than one year.

The treaty has also been criticised because opponents say it is not reciprocal: the US does not need to present evidence to a British court to request extradition, while the UK still needs to present evidence to an American court.

However, the government points out that the "burden of proof" to seek extradition has not changed, and that suspects' rights are still protected.

'Unbalanced treaty'

Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesman Chris Huhne said that the Appeal Court ruling "demonstrates how this Government has risked serious miscarriages of justice by entering into an inherently unbalanced treaty with the United States, which seriously undermines the rights of British citizens".

He added: "Somebody in Mr Raissi's position today would not be in the Court of Appeal but languishing in an American prison, under current extradition rules.

"The government must undertake an immediate review of the Extradition Act and reopen negotiations, so that we can have the same protections enjoyed by US citizens."

James Welch, legal director of the human rights organisation Liberty, said that Mr Raissi was "lucky" to be arrested before the new laws came into effect.

He said: "If he had been arrested now in exactly the same circumstances then he would simply have been whisked off to the United States.

"Nobody is denying that there needs to be a proper extradition procedure. But within that procedure there has to be scope for courts in this country to see how strong the evidence is against the person they are seeking to extradite."

David Blunkett and US Attorney General John Ashcroft
David Blunkett and John Ashcroft signed the extradition deal

Mr Raissi's solicitor Jules Carey said that had the 2003 treaty been in effect at the time of his client's arrest Mr Raissi would have been extradited to the US where he may have faced "execution or life imprisonment."

A Home Office spokesperson said there were no plans either to review the 2003 Extradition Act or to renegotiate the treaty with the US.

He said: "All requests for extradition made to the UK are considered under the provisions of the Extradition Act 2003, which provides full and effective safeguards for the rights of requested persons."

"The US is a trusted extradition partner with a mature legal system and it guarantees appropriate safeguards within its domestic courts."

Profile: Lotfi Raissi
14 Feb 08 |  UK
MPs overturn extradition change
24 Oct 06 |  UK Politics


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