The US last month declared itself to be “deeply disappointed” that the Swiss authorities declined to extradite film director Roman Polanski for sentencing in a 33-year-old case involving under-age sex. July, it seems, was not a good month for American extradition requests.
Take Abu Hamza, the one-eyed, hook-handed jihadist from central casting who has become a poster boy for Islamist extremism. The 58-year-old Egyptian-born Hamza, a suspected member of al-Qaeda, is currently serving a seven-year sentence in Belmarsh top-security jail in London for incitement to murder and fomenting racial hatred.
Under cross-examination, Hamza declared that Jews control the British Foreign Office, the media and the money supply in Britain and the US. In sentencing Hamza, the trial judge said he had “helped to create an atmosphere in which to kill has become regarded by some as not only a legitimate course but a moral and religious duty in pursuit of perceived justice.” Hamza is due for parole next year.
Not so fast. At the time of Hamza’s trial in London in 2004, he attracted the attention of Washington, which moved swiftly to seek his extradition. The American charges range from taking 16 hostages in Yemen in 1998, to advocating violent jihad in Afghanistan and conspiring to establish a US-based jihad training camp in Oregon (he is also wanted in Yemen for allegedly masterminding a bomb plot).
To support their extradition request, the US offered assurances that Hamza would not be designated as an enemy combatant, that he would not face extraordinary rendition and that he would not be subject to the death penalty. Fair enough. The British Government appeared willing, perhaps even anxious, to put Hamza on the plane.
But Hamza, a night club bouncer-turned imam, had other ideas. Unhappy about the proposed transatlantic journey, he appealed to the European Court of Human Rights, whose authority supersedes the highest court in Britain. And last month, the court ruled that Hamza could not, after all, be transferred to the United States for trial.
Even after accepting US assurances about Hamza’s treatment, the court held that the likely sentence – life in jail – would breach the prohibition on inhuman or degrading treatment under Article Three of the European Convention of Human Rights.
Taking into account payment Hamza has received for welfare, council housing and health insurance, as well as prison bills and legal fees, the father-of-eight is estimated to have cost British taxpayers some £2.75 million. And counting.
The case of 24-year-old Abid Naseer provides an appropriate companion piece. Naseer was arrested in April last year, along with 11 fellow Pakistanis in Britain on student visas. The arrests were triggered by the premature publication of an investigation by the anti-terrorist police of a plot to bomb a Manchester shopping centre.
Ten weeks after their arrest, all 11 suspects were released. Most returned voluntarily to Pakistan, but Naseer decided to stay and appealed against a subsequent deportation order. After hearing “a substantial volume of closed material”, the Special Immigration and Appeals Commission said it was satisfied that Naseer was in contact with an “al-Qaeda associate” in Pakistan. It was also satisfied that Naseer was “an al-Qaeda operative who posed, and still poses, a serious threat to the national security of the United Kingdom”. And the Commission ruled it would be “conducive to the public good that he should be deported”.
But that was not the end of the story. After warning about the terrorist threat and the desirability of deporting Naseer, the Commission concluded that if he were deported to Pakistan, Naseer would be “at risk” from Pakistan’s ISI intelligence service. Therefore, it decided, Naseer should remain in Britain. Home Secretary Theresa May said the government would not appeal, but would take “all possible measures” to ensure that Naseer did not engage in terrorist activity.
Last month, as the European Court was delivering its judgement on Abu Hamza, the Americans requested the extradition of Naseer on charges linked to a failed plot, co-ordinated by al-Qaeda, to bomb the New York subway system. It was, say American officials, the most ambitious plot since 9/11.
Two men have already admitted planning to detonate home-made suicide bombs in the subway and a third is awaiting trial. But given the European Court’s ruling on Hamza, it seems unlikely that Naseer will be joining them anytime soon.
Those who practice the psychological arts might explain why European jurists and political leaders appear to be so anxious to defend terrorists; why they are so resolute in protecting the very people who are committed to their destruction; why they permit themselves to flout their primary responsibility – to protect their own citizens.
Noted British political commentator Douglas Murray: “No society that wishes to survive would continue to put the rights of people regarded as a threat above those of its citizens. No government that wishes to survive should think of doing so, either.”
Amen to that.