French newspapers and anti-terrorism investigators accused Britain of hypocrisy and bad faith yesterday for not extraditing an Algerian man accused of financing the Paris metro bombings in 1995.
Two other Algerian men went on trial in Paris, accused of an Islamic extremist terror campaign which killed eight people and injured more than 200. The court decided to postpone the trial of Rachid Ramda, 33, who has been in prison in Britain since shortly after the attack while the Home Office and courts have considered requests from Paris for his extradition.
In 1996, a British court originally ruled that he should be sent to France but the Government failed to implement the order. The Home Secretary, David Blunkett, finally decided that Mr Ramda should be extradited last October, just after the terror attacks on the United States. His decision was overturned in June by the High Court, which ruled that Mr Ramda could not be guaranteed a fair trial in France.
The newspaper Libération said yesterday it was "dumbstruck" by the "stubbornness and bad faith" of the British authorities, which flew in the face of talk of international co-operation in a "war against terrorism". Irène Stoller, a French public prosecutor formerly in charge of terror investigations, said there was "tolerance" of Islamist terrorist activity in London.
"Even in the recent operations against the Bin Laden network, they have been careful to bring no action against terrorists hiding over there," Ms Stoller said. "That way they avoid the possible consequences of a trial."
British embassy officials in Paris said they were "frustrated by unjustified accusations". The Government had made its decision to extradite Mr Ramda but could not interfere in the British judicial system.
The High Court judges said there was evidence that another suspect, Boualem Bensaid, had been beaten by French police before his confession, which implicated Mr Ramda, and the French authorities were guilty of "bad faith" in failing to mention it.
French officials deny any beating. In any case, they say, the evidence linking Mr Ramda to the metro bombings goes far beyond Mr Bensaid's confession. British police found Mr Ramda's fingerprints on a payment slip for money sent to Mr Bensaid from Wembley, north London, and other evidence on the hard disk of a computer at his London home.
A further attempt will be made by the French authorities to extradite Mr Ramda next month.
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