In Depth

Extradited businessman Tappin to appear in US court today

Chris Tappin's case is piling pressure on the government to revise UK extradition treaties

CHRIS TAPPIN, the retired British businessman who was extradited to America last week, will appear in a Texas court today to plead not guilty to charges of conspiring to export missile batteries to Iran.

Tappin, who says he is the victim of an FBI sting, is being held in the Otero County Detention Centre, a remote prison in the desert. The American Civil Liberties Union recently alleged abuses, humiliating treatment of detainees and inadequate access to medical care at the facility, which holds 1,000 inmates. At his own request, Tappin has been placed in isolation.

Dan Cogdell, Tappin's US lawyer, told The Times that his client was treated properly by the marshals who escorted him from London's Heathrow airport to Texas and is in "very good spirits, all things considered".

Tappin will appear in court again later this week for a bail hearing.

Cogdell said: "He's certainly entitled to bond. This is a 65-year-old guy with no criminal background... I don't believe the government can maintain he's a danger or a flight risk." However, the fact that Tappin fought extradition to the US might count against him.

Tappin's case is the latest to highlight what critics argue are Britain's unfair extradition laws.

Tappin's family has written a letter to Home Secretary Theresa May, who signed off the extradition. It reads: "This extradition treaty has cruelly ripped the heart from our family, leaving us with a real sense that our Government has turned its back on my father.

"Despite the nature of the case against him and his record as nothing other than a respected businessman and law-abiding citizen, not a single shred of evidence, for or against, was presented in a British court."

At no point in Tappin's 20-month battle against extradition was his legal team allowed to challenge the evidence presented against him by US officials.  

It is this aspect of Britain's extradition laws that has come under attack.

Andrew McKie makes this argument in The Herald today, saying: "I don't think it is especially airy-fairy, libertarian or topsy-turvy to expect... not to be extradited without a chance to put a case in an English or Scottish court, and that evidence equivalent to that required for a trial here should be produced."

A review by Sir Scott Baker last year into Britain's extradition agreement with the US and the European Arrest Warrant, which makes the transfer of suspects within the EU a formality, found that the rules do not operate "unfairly or oppressively".

May launched a review of the Baker report after human rights organisation Liberty said it was "completely baffled" by its findings and the head of the Home Affairs Committee, Keith Vaz, said it had "not shed any light on the ease of extradition".

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