Christopher Tappin Extradition Prompts Pressure On Theresa May
The wife of a British man extradited to the United States after being accused of selling weapon components to Iran has made an emotional plea to MPs.
Elaine Tappin told MPs on the home affairs committee that both she and her husband Christopher were "beyond shocked" when he was arrested in 2010.
Christopher Tappin was escorted by US marshals to America on Friday where he faces charges of arms dealing.
“In the intervening three years [after Chris was charged in the US], he was being spoken and written about in court papers as a fugitive, yet we had never known of the existence of any indictment against him," Ms Tappin said.
She spoke of her disappointment that the coalition had failed to step in to save her husband. “We thought Theresa May would stop the nonsense and we would resume our life as before”
The home secretary has come under increased pressure to speak out on Britain's extradition arrangements with the US following the the decision to hand Christopher Tappin over to the American authorities.
Christopher Tappin was said to be “stunned” when his appeal against extradition to the US was rejected by the ECHR. His wife added: "it was the cruellest blow”.
Struggling to keep her composure, she told MPs of the couple’s “wholly uncertain future”, as the Tappin family are left feeling “incredulity, frustration, heart-rending sadness, despair and utter disbelief”.
Mrs Tappin said: “It isn’t until you are placed in this terrible position, of not being allowed to put forward your defence, that you begin to understand, that the British courts will not listen to you.”
Neil Tappin, appearing alongside his mother, told MPs of the suffering the extradition process his father was going through. He said that his father was in solitary confinement. "All he is there with is himself and his thoughts," he said.
Attorney General Dominic Grieve has told MPs that the arrangements between London and Washington, signed by Tony Blair in 2003, are not ideal. But he insisted that only May could act to change the law.
Before the 2010 general election, he had said: “Our extradition laws are a mess. They’re one-sided. A Tory government will re-write them."
Grieve, speaking to MPs this afternoon, spoke less bluntly:
“I certainly don’t think they are in the condition that I would ideally like them to be. If we were to start from somewhere, I don’t think we'd have started from the 2003 [Extradition] Act.”
And he dodged ultimate responsibility for the future of the UK’s extradition laws, saying: “I’m here to provide legal advice to the government, policymaking is a matter for the Home Secretary.”
Pressure also came from the Liberal Democrats when Sir Menzies Campbell spoke to MPs. Sir Menzies, who has been leading a LibDem panel on reforming extradition laws, called for the home secretary to “go before Parliament” to clarify the government’s position. He added: “I’d like to hear what the Home Secretary has to say”.
Grieve accepted concerns over the UK’s relation with the US on extradition, admitting that there was a “lack of public confidence in the US criminal justice system… there are perceptions that [it] can be harsh. There are aspects that tend to make people uneasy. I’m not sure it is readily curable”.