'Political defence' for extradition could end: Clarke seeks abolition of terrorists' plea

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Indy Politics
THE 'political defence' used by terrorists to avoid extradition could be abolished by changes to European extradition laws demanded by Britain, Kenneth Clarke, Home Secretary, told the Commons home affairs select committee last night.

Britain is seeking harmonisation in European extradition law to deny terrorists the right to oppose extradition on the grounds that a criminal offence was politically motivated. It is also seeking the agreement of member states to lift the ban by some countries, particularly Italy, in extraditing their nationals to EC countries.

Extradition rules would be changed to ensure that those being extradited did not face the same charges in two countries, and that extradition was not held up by additional charges being added to the extradition orders. Officials are already discussing the changes, proposed by Britain, which member states would have to put into law through their own Parliaments.

There has been controversy involving Britain and Ireland over failures of extradition for alleged terrorists, but British ministers said last night that the changes were not aimed at Ireland. Problems have also been encountered in extraditions involving other EC countries, such as the Netherlands. Mr Clarke is seeking the extradition changes to tackle international crime, including those committed by the Mafia, in addition to terrorism. The talks on harmonisation will continue under the terms of the Maastricht treaty, but that will not extend to changes in law.

The Home Secretary assured the committee the treaty would not give the Community the right to dictate policy to Britain on law and order issues such as immigration, asylum, and criminal justice.

'It would require unanimous agreement by all the member states and a vote in Parliament. In our view there is no case for extending Community competence in this field,' Mr Clarke said.