Thursday, July 13, 2006

Day of shame

On the question whether it is easier to extradite people from the UK than the US: 'US ambassador Robert Tuttle said "roughly" the same standards applied.'  (Interview with the American ambassador on the Today Programme, 12 Jul, 8:22)

A few hours later, in Prime Minister's Questions, Tony Blair said that 'in the Attorney-General’s view, the test that the United States applies—probable cause—is roughly analogous to the test that we apply in this country'. An emergency debate followed, immediately after PMQs. A man with a connection to the affair, Neil Coulbeck, is found dead in the East of London.

More on the Today Programme (13 Jul, 7:24). The debate etc is now available online. Update: In the PMQs Mr Blair says, 'It would not be right if we ended up applying a higher standard and burden of proof to America than to many other countries, including European countries, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and even countries such as Azerbaijan and Albania.' The hole he is digging gets bigger and bigger. So, we could  face extradition to Azerbaijan in the same way? Is that supposed to make us feel better? People commenting on the BBC website are, I would say, at least 5 to 1 angry about the extradition.
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Email to Denis MacShane, MP; copies to my MP and Joan Ryan:
Mr. Denis MacShane (Rotherham) (Lab): How would my hon. Friend regard a British firm whose criminal activity led to the destruction of thousands of people’s lives, their homes, pensions and their children’s education? What if we wanted to bring back to this country someone to give evidence on the international ramifications of such activity, but another sovereign legislature refused to accept our claim? We should not forget that we are talking about international law and international crime.

Joan Ryan [Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department] : Absolutely. My right hon. Friend makes the case for the measure.
Absolutely. But the point is that the US prosecutors used the threat of prosecution to bring undue pressure on the 'NatWest Three' to give evidence against Andrew Fastow in the Enron case. Gary Mulgrew said, “We were offered a deal. [... But] I would not want to stand up in court and perjure myself [in giving evidence against Fastow, Jeffrey Skilling and Ken Lay].”

The ironies here are beyond belief. John-Paul Flintoff tells us:
Judges award additional time in jail to defendants who plead innocent and give testimony in their own defence, because this is regarded as perjury. To avoid this eventuality, many defendants prefer not to say anything at all. The courts in Washington state have ruled that these sentencing guidelines are unconstitutional, and no longer use them. (The matter is going for review to the US Supreme Court.) But Texas still uses federal sentencing guidelines...
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Email Email to Greg Djerejian (Belgravia Dispatch)

Have you seen any coverage over there on the 'NatWest Three' affair? This concerns extradition arrangements between the US and the UK. I looked on The New York Times Europe page yesterday, but didn't see anything.

A bitter row has broken out in Britain over this. I have my own opinion on the matter, but what is perhaps most important is that opinion in sections of the media (The Daily Telegraph) and political parties (the Tories) that was previously supportive of Tony Blair's closeness to the US (over Iraq) is now hostile. And this is going on as a new corruption scandal breaks close to Mr Blair.

On the Left, as I am sure you are aware, a small, but not often heard, number of people supported at least the principle of the intervention in Iraq. On this extradition issue, I have not as yet heard any of the usual voices take up the cause...
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Email to the FT:

In view of the failure of attempts by the British Parliament to hold the government to account over the shameful new extradition arrangements and the impact this is said to have on the business community, when are the company's corporate owners going to compel the Royal Bank of Scotland to behave honourably in this affair?
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The three former NatWest bankers are on a flight to the US (13 July 2006, 09:43).

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