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Christopher Tappin Extradition: 'My 10 Barbaric Days In US Prison'

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FILE: Christopher Tappin
FILE: Christopher Tappin

A retired British businessman extradited to the United States on arms dealing charges almost had a breakdown after 10 "barbaric" days in solitary confinement in a US prison, it was reported.

Christopher Tappin, 65, in an interview with the Times, said he was deprived of food and access to the British consul and treated like a criminal in the Otero County detention centre in New Mexico, despite having yet to stand trial.

Tappin, from Orpington, Kent, was bailed on Wednesday after his family paid $50,000 (£31,026) of a $1m (£620,527) bond, a family spokeswoman said.

He told the Times there had been a "presumption of guilt from the very beginning" by authorities.

"Psychologically I felt myself slipping away...I can't tell you how difficult it was," he told the newspaper.

Speaking about the days when he was taken from the detention centre to court for bail hearings, he added: "They were mentally excruciating days."

He also told the paper how after being freed from solitary confinement he was kept in a cell with six other inmates in a cell for those requiring protection from the rest of the prison population.

A family spokeswoman said the family of the the former president of the Kent Golf Union were planning to visit him in Texas, where he must stay, as soon as possible.

Speaking after the judge set the terms of his release, Tappin's wife Elaine said she was "grateful for the judge's humanity".

Tappin said her husband had been "unnecessarily locked up" for more than eight weeks and "abandoned by the authorities in his own country".

By releasing him on bail, the judge had given him an opportunity to challenge the allegations made against him, she said.

Tappin added: "We are making arrangements to visit him as soon as we can."

Tappin who denies selling batteries for surface-to-air missiles to Iran, faces up to 35 years in prison if convicted at his trial in El Paso, Texas.

His case has fuelled the row over the fairness of the extradition treaty between the UK and the US.

Attorney General Dominic Grieve QC said Tappin's extradition highlighted problems with the treaty which were not "readily curable", warning that many Britons were left uneasy when faced with the seemingly harsh and disproportionate sentences in the American justice system.

Other critics of the 2003 treaty, including Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, have described it as "one-sided", but an independent review by retired Court of Appeal judge Sir Scott Baker last year found it was balanced and fair.

Tappin's extradition follows an investigation which started in 2005 when US agents asked technology providers about buyers who might have raised red flags.

Those customers were then approached by undercover companies set up by government agencies.

Briton Robert Gibson, an associate of Tappin who agreed to co-operate, was jailed for 24 months after pleading guilty to conspiracy to export defence articles.

Gibson provided customs agents with about 16,000 computer files and emails indicating that he and Tappin had long-standing commercial ties with Iranian customers.

American Robert Caldwell was also found guilty of aiding and abetting the illegal transport of defence articles and served 20 months in prison.

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