Extradition protest targets businessman's hearing

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The Independent Online

Human rights campaigners are to stage a protest over Britain's extradition laws today.





The demonstration will take place outside the hearing of a retired British businessman who could be sent to the United States to answer charges that he conspired to sell parts for Iranian missiles.



Christopher Tappin, from Orpington, south-east London, has claimed he was the victim of entrapment by American agents and vehemently denied that he attempted to sell batteries, sourced in the US, for surface-to-air missiles to Tehran.



If convicted, the 63-year-old could face 35 years in an American prison.



The Kent County Golf Union president said last month that he was unwittingly caught up in a US customs sting.



He said: "I was the victim of the unlawful conduct of US agents who pretended to belong to a false company, known as Mercury Global Enterprises. It exists solely to ensnare unsuspecting importers.



"When negotiating with me, and when I raised my concerns about the licence agreement they assured me that 'this would not be a problem', however, the same agents have been relied upon to accuse me of being responsible for not obtaining the licences.



"They misled me by sending me paperwork which clearly stated 'no license required'."



Mr Tappin, who was a director of Surrey-based Brooklands International Freight Services, said he was informed that his business associate Robert Gibson had been injured in a car accident when he had, in fact, been arrested.



It was said the firm would have received $500 for the transaction which involved five batteries.



His case has been taken up by solicitor Karen Todner. She also represents Gary McKinnon who faces being extradited over allegations he hacked into Pentagon computers.



Human rights organisation Liberty, which has organised today's demonstration outside City of Westminster Magistrates' Court, called on the Government "to honour its election promises to review and restore fairness to the British system".



A spokeswoman said: "Liberty is also asking the Government to activate a provision in the Extradition Act that would introduce a crucial safeguard into the British system.



"The 'forum amendment' was supported by Coalition parties in opposition and has lain dormant on the statute books for four years.



"It allows a UK court to consider barring extradition if a significant part of the conduct that led to an alleged crime took place in or from the UK and could have allowed Mr Tappin's case to be heard in a UK court if the amendment had been active."



Shami Chakrabarti, director at Liberty, said: "Britain's rotten extradition system is in urgent need of overhaul but justice begins with a simple first step.



"Parliament must click the switch and activate the judicial safeguard supported by both coalition parties in 2006.



"Without it, people in Britain remain vulnerable to accusation and transportation across the globe."



A Home Office spokesman said last month: "The Government is committed to reviewing the UK's extradition arrangements.



"An announcement on the review will be made in due course."



Mr Tappin is accused of conspiring to export defence articles without licence or approval, aiding and abetting the attempted export of defence articles without the required licence and intentionally and unlawfully attempting to conduct financial transactions from the outside to a place inside the US with the intent to promote the carrying on of a specified unlawful activity.



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