LONDON: A bid by a British businessman to halt the extradition of two terror suspects to the U.S. failed Thursday as a High Court judge warned that the legal system was at risk of being brought into disrepute.
Karl Watkin, a campaigner against the terms of Britain’s extradition treaty with the United States, applied to prosecute Babar Ahmad and Syed Tahla Ahsan for solicitation to murder in the hope they would face trial in Britain.
But Judge Howard Riddle, sitting at Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London, refused the application, calling it “an abuse of the process” of the court.
“In this case I am satisfied that the purpose of these proposed proceedings is to stop or delay extradition of the two named proposed defendants to the USA,” Riddle said.
“The application is made many years after the events complained of,” he added. “It appears to have the cooperation and support of the proposed defendants themselves.
“It comes as almost all other ways of resisting extradition have been exhausted,” he explained.
Patrick O’Connor, representing Watkin’s legal team, told the High Court there would be no appeal over the decision.
The ruling came as the High Court considered separate last-ditch efforts by the two men and three other terror suspects, including radical preacher Abu Hamza, aimed at securing injunctions against extradition.
Phillippa Kaufmann, lawyer for Ahmad, argued on the third day of hearings that the suspects should have been prosecuted in Britain as they are British citizens and the offenses were committed from their home country.
Ahmad is accused of operating websites supporting Chechen and Afghan insurgents. He has been in jail in the U.S. without trial since 2004, while Ahsan has been detained for six years.
Kaufmann insisted that the British Director of Public Prosecutions had a “public duty” to make sure they stood trial in Britain.
Judge John Thomas questioned why the men could not face justice in both countries as many of the alleged crimes, including that of raising money for terrorism, were directed against the United States.
He also asked why it had taken so long for the bid to be launched, warning that it risked becoming “an endless proliferation of process.”
Thomas stressed that the legal system “would be brought into disrepute” if a decision was not reached promptly.
A lawyer for Abu Hamza told the High Court in London Wednesday that the 54-year-old was making an application “pending the obtaining of an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) brain scan which has been recommended by two doctors.”
The High Court was hearing final legal arguments Thursday, with a judgment in the case expected Friday.
None of the five terror suspects were in court in person to hear the appeals.