May 28, 2004

Complicit in the Death Penalty?

So 'radical' Muslim cleric Abu Hamza has been arrested on an extradition warrant - he faces 11 terrorism related charges in the US. Most of the 'evidence' has been known for more than 18 months so why the arrest now? The intrigue is spiced up by the fact that the Home Office are trying (without much success) to strip Hamza of his UK citizenship and remove him from the country. A UK/US deal perhaps?

This leads to a worrying conclusion. At the press conference US Attorney General John Ashcroft suggested that the maximum potential penalty that Hamza faces is the death penalty. Under the UK/US extradition treaty signed last year the UK will not extradite anyone to the US who faces the death penalty. Neither will any EU country.

Under the treaty no actual evidence needs to be presented by the US, so this is the only issue that could block the extradition. The arrangement is not reciprocal but can you imagine the embarrassment if the UK refused to extradite Hamza? Could the US executive office, who under law must ask for the death penalty, fail to seek the maximum penalty for a potential terrorist? There's only really two ways out for the UK government - they either successfully extradite Hamza with a promise that he will never face the death penalty or they successfully strip him of his citizenship and remove him to a third party country.

One last question. Given that the UK government was complicit is the holding, interrogation and torture of British citizens at Guantanamo will they actually care if the US wants to fry a man they want out of the country anyway?