Should British terror suspects be extradited to the US?

Should we really have wasted so much time and taxpayer money in trying to extradite terror suspects to the US instead of seeking prosecutions in the UK?

Hamza, leaving on a jet plane
Ghaffar Hussain
On 25 September 2012 13:09

After many years of taxpayer-funded legal wrangling and media debate, the final legal barrier to extraditing five British terror suspects to the US has been removed.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has refused to refer the cases of the five suspects to its grand chamber, following an appeal, and there is now nothing to prevent them from being extradited to face charges on US soil.

The cases against all five suspects have merit and the charges are very serious, but should we really have wasted so much time and taxpayer money in trying to extradite them to the US instead of seeking prosecutions in the UK?

Abu Hamza was a British-based preacher who recruited primarily Britons and encouraged them to commit acts of terror around the world. Of course, he has already been prosecuted for inciting and glorifying terrorism in the UK but now the US wants him to face further charges on US soil. 

Babar Ahmed and Syed Talha Ahsan ran a jihadist website from London. The website was registered in the US but the couple were based in London and uploaded content and wrote articles from their London base. Materials seized from their properties, which provide most of the evidence for the cases against them, were in the hands of the CPS before being handed over to US authorities.

Adel Abdul Bary and Khaled al-Fawwaz ran al-Qaeda media propaganda operations from London. They both helped to push al-Qaeda propaganda following the deadly embassy bombings in Tanzania and Kenya from their London bases. But, crucially, the crimes were committed in the UK and not the US. So why are they being extradited?

Of course, none of them will be missed and we could do without such people in this country but I don't see why we can't charge and prosecute them on British soil. If the US does have further evidence against them then the UK should be asking the US to share that evidence with the CPS rather than wasting so much time and resources on lengthy legal battles over extraditions.

Some critics have accused UK authorities of outsourcing our criminal justice system to the US. Others have criticised the one-sided nature of our extradition treaty. It is most likely the case that we are yet again bowing to US pressure and merely seeking to rid our hands of these individuals in the hope that they become someone else's problem.

Or maybe we should not have allowed London to become a hub for international jihadist recruiters and propaganda chiefs throughout the 90s. Better checks on who was coming in and what they were doing would have prevented us from getting into this mess in the first place. But such was the Zeitgeist.

Ghaffar Hussain is a counter terrorism expert and Contributing Editor to The Commentator. Follow him on Twitter @GhaffarH

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