Alun Jones QC: Hamza should have been tried here

Why was Abu Hamza extradited to the US for crimes he is alleged to have committed in this country? We asked, repeatedly, why no prosecution had been instituted in the UK, but were never given an answer. The position is plain. Our prosecutors say, if the Americans want to try someone, that’s fine by us. When an extradition request comes, we just defer to it. So no difficult questions are left to resolve about whether evidence obtained from a “co-operating” witness arises from unacceptable treatment, or a cooperation agreement so draconian as to amount to duress.

In extradition law, unless some abuse in the preparation of a case is obvious, the “presumption of good faith” – part of the theology of extradition law – prevents inquiry by our courts. Nearly five years ago, the US Attorney General, unusually, complained about the delay in Hamza’s case, indicating that the passage of time might fatally undermine the prosecution case. Whether the case is still triable, who knows? How is the public interest served by all this? The Home Office reaction to the final attempts by Abu Hamza, and the others whose extradition was sought by the US, was to treat this long-running blot on our system as a test of political will. Our approach should be less muscular.

If persons are accused of committing serious crimes in or from this country, we should normally try them here. That is what independent and robust criminal justice systems do. And delay will be avoided. We should not sub-contract their cases to other, more powerful states. The defence witnesses of Abu Hamza, and of Babar Ahmad and Talha Ahsan, accused of facilitating terrorism from their desks in London and in custody for six or seven years, live here. Their computers and documents are here. If guilty, they are a menace here. If not guilty, they should be exonerated here. The arguments for UK trials are the same as for Gary McKinnon, the Natwest Three and others whose cases, not involving terrorism, have given rise to public concern. Rumour has it that the Government may soon be susceptible to a change in the law to protect UK nationals such as Gary McKinnon. There is no reason to exclude those accused of terrorism.

Alun Jones QC represented Abu Hamza in the extradition proceedings.

SOURCE: The Independent

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