France wins fight to try terror suspect

War against terrorism: Extradition
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The Independent Online

There were cheers in France on Tuesday over the irony of a decision by the British Government to extradite an Algerian Islamist leader wanted for allegedly financing the 1995 bomb attacks on the Paris Metro.

The six-year delay in the extradition of Rachid Ramda, 31, is symbolic in French eyes of the lax attitude of London to alleged extremist Islamic activities in London. A French magistrate specialising in anti-terrorist investigations said: "The terrible attacks in the US on 11 September seem finally to have wound up the clock on Big Ben."

Mr Ramda, who is currentlyin Brixton prison, is suspected of raising the funds for a series of terrorist attacks by Algerian militants in Paris in 1995, in which eight people died and nearly 200 were injured.

Mr Ramda has seven days to appeal against the Home Secretary's decision. If he exercises this right, his departure to France could again be delayed for several months. A British court first ordered his extradition in 1996. A series of appeals were exhausted by 1998. A decision on whether to extradite him has been in the hands of the Home Office since the end of 1999.

The reasons for the Government's delay have never been adequately explained.

The French press has compared the previous unwillingness of British authorities to clamp down on alleged London-based militants with the Prime Minister's globe-trotting enthusiasm for America's war on terrorism. One newspaper accused London of hypocrisy.

Eleven of the 19 US suicide hijackers spent some time in Britain. Three people arrested in Europe, accused of plotting similar attacks on American targets in France, were allegedly recruited in London.