The case of Christopher Tappin raises questions about Britain’s extradition treaty with the U.S. The retired businessman was extradited to Texas to face charges that he conspired in the sale of specialized batteries to Iran. U.S. authorities allege that Tappin, who ran a shipping company, knew the batteries were destined for use in Iranian surface-to-air missiles. Tappin says he had no such knowledge and was entrapped by an FBI sting (the Appeal Court rejected the latter claim). However, under the treaty the U.S. had merely to convince an English court that there is a “reasonable suspicion” against Tappin, not a prima facie case — a test which critics say is less rigorous than the equivalent for Americans whose extradition is sought by the UK.
The treaty was agreed after 9/11 to expedite extradition of terror suspects. But other cases, notably that of hacker Gary McKinnon, have raised concerns that it is biased toward U.S. interests. Both Conservatives and the Lib Dems promised reform in opposition, but a wide-ranging review last year by a senior judge concluded that the treaty was fair. Still, the recent case of Abu Qatada, whose extradition to Jordan on terrorist charges was blocked by the European Court, contrasts oddly with that of Tappin. The U.S. has a fair legal system while authoritarian Jordan does not. But Tappin’s case will add to the calls for a fresh review of our U.S. extradition treaty.
London Evening Standard (March 1)