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Last Updated: Friday, 10 March 2006, 11:28 GMT
Extradition fight man attacks law

By Ollie Stone-Lee
BBC News political reporter

Alex Stone, 34
Alex Stone says prosecutors should have to show a case to answer
A blind British man who spent more than six months in a US jail has vowed to join the fight against the extradition laws which put him there.

Alex Stone, 34, has just returned to Britain after the original charges against him were dropped.

He says it is unfair UK laws passed in 2003 allow US prosecutors to request extradition without having to prove in UK courts there is a case to answer.

Ministers say the laws have rightly cut the time needed for extradition.

Horrified

Mr Stone's problems began towards the end of 2003 when he was living in Liberty, Missouri, with his then girlfriend and her 14-month-old child, who suffered broken bones.

"It transpired that the family and the local police decided that it must have been me who had done it, even though there was not really any evidence that I had," he said.

He said the police had been investigating but not trying to arrest him and a US lawyer had advised him to return to Britain.

Requests from the US are now taking an average of six to 12 months to process compared to 30 months under the old arrangements
Home Office spokesman

"I hoped that was the end of it, I imagined that in order to be extradited somewhere, there had to be some burden of proof," said Mr Stone.

Back in London, his British solicitor told him the US authorities could try to have him sent back to America under the new extradition laws.

Everything went quiet until November 2004 when he was horrified to discover British police were looking for him.

Terrorists

He turned himself in and was extradited under the new laws after three hearings in Bow Street Magistrates Court.

"Basically, there appeared to be no defence to extradition and no evidence at all was presented in this case," said Mr Stone.

Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson wants the law change reversed for now

Now he is back in his home city of London, Mr Stone said he wants people to urge their MPs to join the campaign to overturn the 2003 Extradition Act, which was brought in, part, to speed up the removal of alleged terrorists.

Almost 150 MPs have signed a parliamentary petition begun by Tory frontbencher Boris Johnson protesting about the laws, which have also been used to extradite three UK businessmen charged over the collapse of Enron.

They say the old system should be reinstated until the US ratifies its side of the extradition deal between the two countries.

'Resentful'

The fast-track law removed the old rule that US prosecutors had to show there was a prime facie case against somebody when they asked British courts to extradite a UK subject.

Mr Stone told the BBC News website: "It is not right that the British government is prepared to hand people over to a foreign power, however friendly they might be, without them needing to demonstrate there is a case to answer.

"I'm resentful that more than two years of my life has been taken away from me. I'm certainly relieved now. I probably am angry now too. I feel I was badly treated when eventually I was not tried for anything."

Mr Stone spent just more than six months in prison - during which time bail was set at $1m, unaffordable even though only 10% of it had to be paid.

'Charges'

He said he spent 23 hours a day in a cell on his own and let out for 45 minutes for a shower or to watch television. It could be called solitary confinement, he said, although there were advantages to not having to share with anybody.

"I was bored more than anything, I guess I was lonely," he said, admitting he has no way of comparing the experience to life in a British prison.

But during a visit by his mother the bail demand was dropped and Mr Stone was able to be released on a bail payment of $10,000.

Mr Stone took a lie detector test in his lawyer's office. It could not be used in court but apparently helped to persuade prosecutors to drop the original charge of first degree assault, which could have put him behind bars for between 10 and 30 years.

To have the charge dropped completely he pleaded guilty to interfering with arrest by fleeing to Britain - even though he says he was following legal advice in the US when he returned home.

He was sentenced to 179 days in prison - time he had already served while on remand for the original allegations.

Legal dilemma

Mr Stone is one of 12 suspects who have been extradited to the US since the law change. Another 31 American requests are still being processed.

His MP in Tooting, Sadiq Khan is also campaigning about the laws, which have been used against another constituent - Babar Ahmad.

A Home Office spokesman said the US/UK extradition treaty brought benefits for Britain.

It meant crimes such as computer-related offences which were unknown when the last extradition treaty was signed were now covered.

"Our experience under the new arrangements has to date been extremely positive," said the spokesman.

"Requests from the US are now taking an average of six to 12 months to process compared to 30 months under the old arrangements.

"This is much closer to the time taken to process requests by the US - five months. This benefits victims, witnesses, our courts, and the fugitive themselves."

US requests are now handled in the precisely same way as used with other European countries since 1991 and with nations like Australia, New Zealand, Canada and South Africa, he added.


SEE ALSO:
US law chief backing treaty deal
07 Mar 06 |  UK Politics
Enron charge trio facing US trial
24 May 05 |  Business


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