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Last Updated: Tuesday, 5 July, 2005, 06:11 GMT 07:11 UK
Extradition law criticised by MPs
Babar Ahmad
Babar Ahmad, pictured in green, is fighting extradition to the US
The UK's extradition laws have come under fire from MPs as the deadline nears for the home secretary to decide the fate of a British terror suspect.

A judge has said Babar Ahmad can be deported to the US. Charles Clarke is due to decide on the case by 15 July.

At a cross-party meeting Conservative MP Boris Johnson said extradition rules introduced in 2003 were "grotesque".

Liberal Democrat peer Lord Goodhart QC said Mr Ahmad and other defendants should be put on trial in the UK.

Evidence gap

UK legislation designed to speed up the extradition of terror suspects came into force in January 2004.

Under the act there is no requirement for the US authorities to present a prima facie case, although UK authorities must do so in seeking extraditions from the US.

Mr Ahmad, 31, a computer expert from London, is accused of running websites that supported terrorists and urged Muslims to fight a holy war.

It is offensive that our government should insist on deporting them to the United States without testing the evidence in a court in the UK
Lord Goodhart QC
Lib Dem peer

His MP, Labour's Sadiq Khan, told the meeting inside Parliament Mr Ahmad denied the allegations but was happy to "face the music" in a British court.

Sixty MPs have also signed a parliamentary petition calling for the government to change the rules. A delegation is also going to the home secretary about Mr Ahmad's case.

The extradition rules, which have yet to be tested in the High Court, also apply to people such as the three UK men allegedly connected to the Enron scandal.

Poodle comparison

As MP for the Enron charge trio, Mr Johnson said it was contrary to UK law that British citizens should be extradited for crimes allegedly committed in the UK.

The Serious Fraud Office has said there were insufficient grounds for launching a case against the men in the UK.

Attacking the rules, Mr Johnson said: "To call it poodling is an insult to poodles."

Lord Goodhart explained that the rules followed a US-UK treaty signed in 2003 which still had not been ratified by the American Senate.

To call it poodling is an insult to poodles
Boris Johnson MP

He said double jeopardy laws meant a suspect who had been tried in the UK could not be extradited for the same offence, whether found guilty or not guilty.

But if prosecuting authorities in the UK decided the case was so weak that was not worth prosecuting, the suspect could be deported.

"It is, I believe, offensive that our government should insist on deporting them to the United States without testing the evidence in a court in the UK," he said.

Modernising

Respect MP George Galloway said it was a "monstrosity" even to suggest extraditing suspects to the country responsible for the Guantanamo Bay prison camps.

A Home Office spokeswoman said it did not require prima facie evidence from the 40 countries which had signed a European extradition agreement.

The US could not reciprocate as its rules on the issue were enshrined in its constitution, she said. But it did not make sense to recreate an "unequal relationship" with the US.

Extradition laws dating back to 1972 had now been simplified and modernised, said the spokeswoman.

The process was now faster, something which helped witnesses, courts, victims and fugitives, she said.

Judges could not extradite anybody where they feared a serious breach of human rights and there was a right of appeal to the High Court, she added.




SEE ALSO:
Enron charge trio plan long fight
25 May 05 |  Business
UK rules out death penalty extradition
05 Apr 03 |  UK Politics


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