Blunkett urged to reform UK's extradition laws


David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, faced growing pressure last night to reform the extradition process and introduce a "fast-track" system for dealing with people suspected of international terrorism.

Several suspected close associates of Osama bin Laden, the main suspect in last Tuesday's atrocities, are in Britain resisting moves to have them brought to trial on terrorism charges. Indeed, the country has emerged as an important staging post in Mr bin Laden's network, particularly for investment of funds, planning operations and buying specialist equipment. The United States, France, Russia, Israel and Jordan have all been frustrated by the difficulty of extraditing suspected Islamist terrorists from Britain.

Khalid al-Fawwaz, a Saudi Arabian in prison in London, has received hundreds of thousands of pounds in legal aid to fight extradition to America on terrorist charges. A 300-page dossier compiled by American officials alleges that he played a key role in plotting the 1998 bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, which killed 224 people.

Mr Al-Fawwaz, 36, came to Britain with his family in 1994. American agents claim that they intercepted calls from his house in Dollis Hill, north-west London, to those involved in the bombing mission. They also claim that his office, called the Advice and Reformation Committee, was a London front for Mr bin Laden's al-Qa'ida group.

A satellite telephone, bought by Mr Al-Fawwaz in London, was intended for Mr bin Laden's base in Afghanistan, it is alleged. Lawyers acting for him, however, have said he denies all the accusations and will be taking his case to the House of Lords next month.

America is also trying to extradite two of Mr Al-Fawwaz's London-based associates, Ibrahim Eidarous and Adel Abdel Bary. They too have been linked to the embassy bombings and to Mr bin Laden.

Also in prison fighting extradition is a London-based Algerian, Haydar Abu Doha, 36, known as The Doctor or Amar Makhlulif. He is accused by America of plotting to blow up Los Angeles airport and has been named by US prosecutors as a key figure in Mr bin Laden's network. The complaint alleges that he helped terrorists to travel to training camps in Afghanistan run by al-Qa'ida and sent others to Canada in preparation for a thwarted attack on Millennium Eve.

Another London-based Islamist leader facing calls for extradition is Omar Mahmood Abu Omar. Better known as Abu Qatada, he has been living in Britain as a political refugee since 1993 and runs an Islamic library in Willesden, north-west London. Britain has rejected repeated requests from Jordan for his extradition.

Whitehall sources have confirmed that a sister of Mr bin Laden is living in Britain. However, the terror suspect has been cut off by his family.

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