65-year-old British business Christopher Tappin has been extradited from the UK today, February 24, 2012. It is alleged that he illegally exported weapons parts to Iran. It is claimed that there is a strong case against Mr Tappin who was apparently caught out in a US sting operation. Tappin maintained that the parts he was exporting were to be used in cars.
This article though is not so much about his alleged crimes but more about the injustice in the UK which leaves one of its citizens able to be extradited in such a way.
Mr Tappin has already drawn parallels between his case and that of foreign national Abu Qatada. Qatada is wanted in Jordan to face charges but his deportation to that country has been stopped by the EU court of Human Rights. Qatada is a citizen of Jordan whilst Mr Tappin is a British citizen who down the years has been a law abiding taxpayer. No such respite for him. Human rights courts have agreed to his deportation whist Qatada remains in the UK costing the country an estimated £10,000 a week.
Qatada has made his feelings about the UK and its citizens plain yet we continue to pussyfoot around him.
Mr Tappin is at a time in his life when he should be looking toward a quiet retirement. Mr Tappin cares for his wife Elaine. She has chronic Churg-Strauss Syndrome. Elaine tearfully went to the airport with her husband today.He was handcuffed and seated with two US Marshalls for his flight over to the US. Way to go US. Over the top as always.
UK media reports today have carried this story and plenty of UK judges have shared their thoughts on this case. As they have said in the UK you are innocent until proven guilty. As soon as Mr Tappin set foot on the plane to the US today he was assumed guilty.
What galls most is the US ridiculous plea bargaining system. Many other UK citizens extradited to the US have faced a threatened sentence of perhaps even 700 years in jail plus possible bankruptcy if their case fails as opposed to a couple of years in jail if they "cop a plea" or plea bargain. Which would you choose? Obviously most people plea bargain as the only sensible way to guarantee returning home .However this means they cannot prove their innocence and neither can they have a fair trial with witness evidence.
SkyNews has reported that at the airport Mr Tappin said he was not confident at all. He went on to say, "I won't be given leave to get any of my witnesses who are based in the UK because they are not allowed to testify in America by virtue of the fact they do not allow video interrogation. They have to appear personally. Unfortunately they will not appear in America so I don't know. I have certainly got enough facts to support my case but without the witnesses, their testimony, it's going to be very difficult. If I wanted anything, it was to be tried in the UK, not in America, because the Americans have never had to produce one piece of evidence. All the evidence shown to the court so far has come from our side. They have not had to produce any evidence whatsoever. We believe there is no evidence ... it's just an accusation. By virtue of an accusation they are allowed to extradite people from one country to another."
And why should he not face a UK court here in Great Britain? There was never a hope in mounting a winnable legal challenge against this man's extradition due to a treaty between the US and the UK which has been in operation since 2003. When he was in opposition David Cameron insisted that he would get this treaty changed or withdraw the UK from it. As yet he and his government have done nothing to improve the situation.
As Mr Tappin said today, "I was born in this country, I'm a taxpayer in this country, why can't you look after me? I need your protection."It's the one time in my life that I need your protection, yet you let me go into a brutal system which I don't know if I'll ever survive." Any UK judge is powerless in such a case. Basically if the information used for extradition satisfies the terms of the treaty, there's very little discretion for the Home Secretary, a minister, or the courts.
US plea bargaining bears no relation to that in the UK. It would not be allowed in the same format in the UK. Added to this Mr Tappin looks set to be held in a Federal prison. Foreigners always are in the US in case they might try to flee the country. The family home is being sold to fund his legal costs. He faces a possible 35 year sentence if convicted which for him would be a life jail sentence. Obviously he will have to take the plea bargain option.
As more and more UK citizens are facing the gung ho attitude of the US it seemed likely that an E Petition ought to be started online. Checking the government website there is already one in place. The number of signatures right now is low. We should be looking to ourselves as well as hoping that justice is served for Mr Tappin. The might of the UK population needs to be thrown behind the petition to force the UK Parliament to debate this treaty and do the right thing.
Good luck is sent to the Tappin family.
Opinion: Hillary Clinton has been keen to ensure that Tappin is extradited to the US. He is charged with exporting batteries which could be used in Hawk air defence missiles. Hypocrisy from the so called Land of the Free. Is there any wonder that the US has become so hated around the world?
The Online petition asks to Withdraw from the Extradition Treaty with the United States Responsible department: Home Office We call on parliament to immediately withdraw from the current Extradition Treaty with the United States until the following conditions are met:
-Equality in terms of strength of evidence with regards extradition of US citizens to the UK and from UK citizens to the US
-No extradition for crimes not committed on American soil
-The standard of evidence must be high enough for the Crown Prosecution Service to make a charge in the UK for extradition to take place.
-The standards of prisoner treatment and sentencing meets the standards of the UK Human Rights Act.
Eileen Kersey manages TEK Staff Blog