Women to be extradited to US for trial: Clarke attacked for agreeing that two former Bhagwan followers should face charges in America. Heather Mills reports

TWO British women are to be sent to the United States to face trial in what was described yesterday as a 'threadbare' and 'squalid case of political expediency'.

Kenneth Clarke, the Home Secretary, ordered the extradition of Susan Hagan and Sally Croft yesterday to face charges of conspiracy to murder - despite warnings from Lord Scarman, the former Law Lord, and lawyers that there was a serious risk of a miscarriage of justice.

Mr Clarke's decision means that the women should be extradited before Monday, but Andrew McCooey, their solicitor, said yesterday that he would be applying immediately for judicial review - which could delay the procedure - and would, if necessary, take the case to the European Court of Human Rights.

The charges of plotting to kill Charles Turner, a US federal attorney, arise from events eight years ago when the two women were followers of the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh. Suggestions of a plot arose after the Bhagwan commune in the wilderness near Antelope, Oregon, collapsed amid infighting and bitter confrontation with the US authorities.

But no attempt was ever made on Mr Turner's life. In fact, the only evidence against the two women is the uncorroborated testimony of other former cult members, who in plea bargains won lenient sentences for providing statements against others.

Appeals to Mr Clarke to intervene were prompted by the lack of corroboration; delays in bringing the case - the US Justice Department did not seek the extradition for nearly five years; fear that the women could not get a fair trial in Oregon where local resentment against the Bhagwan's followers remains fierce; and failure to disclose the evidence to the women. The Home Secretary has the power to refuse extradition if he considers it would be 'unjust or oppressive'.

But no Home Secretary has ever refused an extradition request from the US and Mr Clarke made it clear he was not prepared to set a precedent. He said: 'I am satisfied a clear prima facie case has been found against both women. The strength of the evidence and the guilt or innocence of the accused should be determined by a court of law and not by me.'

Nick Raynsford, Ms Croft's MP, said: 'This is a squalid case of political expediency overriding justice. The case is threadbare. It is based on unsubstantiated allegations made as part of a plea bargain by discredited individuals. No case would be entertained in the British courts on such a flimsy basis, which Mr Clarke, as a QC, must know only too well.'

Now in their mid-40s, Ms Croft, a senior accountant, and Ms Hagan, an aromatherapist and mother of two, face up to 20 years in jail if convicted.

Ms Hagan said: 'I'm stunned, I can't believe the Home Secretary has found there is a prime facie case. And how can he be convinced there will be no prejudice against cults, especially in the light of recent events at Waco.'

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
Murray celebrates reaching the final
tennis
Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
Life and Style
tech
News
James Corden’s social media footprint was a factor for CBS
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
Henry VIII played by Damien Lewis
tvReview: Scheming queens-in-waiting, tangled lines of succession and men of lowly birth rising to power – sound familiar?
Sport
Harry Kane celebrates scoring the opening goal for Spurs
footballLive: All the latest transfer news as deadline day looms
Arts and Entertainment
Master of ceremony: Jeremy Paxman
tvReview: Victory for Jeremy Paxman in this absorbing, revealing tale
News
Sir David Attenborough
people
Life and Style
Young girl and bowl of cereal
food + drink
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: Humanities Teacher

£130 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Humanities Teacher Jan 2015 - July...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Assistant - 9-12 Months

£14500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Accounts Assistant is immedi...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Communications Executive

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Ashdown Group: SQL DBA (SSIS, ETL) - London, £60k

£60000 per annum: Ashdown Group: SQL DBA (SSIS, ETL) - Central London, £60,000...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness