The extradition of Abu Hamza and 4 other men to the US seems to have given almost universal pleasure and there is no doubt that he seems an extraordinarily unpleasant man, with a long criminal record and deeply repellent views.
But it is in just these sorts of cases that a Liberal needs to be careful and not just go with popular opinion. When you look at what crimes he and the other men involved are accused of it is impossible not to be concerned. It is, interestingly enough, quite difficult to find exactly what they are accused of; the best summary I have found is here.
Abu Hamza himself is accused of organising kidnappings in Yemen, in which a number of people were killed during rescue attempt. 12 of those killed were British, so if there is a case against him why are we not making it here? He is also accused of supporting the Taliban and the only crime which may have directly affected the US, organising a terrorist training camp in Oregon. This seems to have been a rather absurd affair, basically a scam by a petty crook.
The case against some of the other men is even more troubling. They are accused of using US based websites to raise funds for Al Qaeda and in one case having purchased satellite phone-in the US which subsequently used for terrorist purposes. Most worrying of all the DPP has decided not to prosecute any of these crimes in the UK. What possible reason can there be for not doing so? The alleged crimes were committed here. In some cases British citizens were killed by their alleged actions and yet we send them thousands of miles away to be tried.
If using a US based website is a legitimate grounds for extradition then none of us safe from prosecution by the US government. Send an e mail via Gmail, Hotmail or Yahoo, do something on Facebook that the US government doesn’t like and you can be extradited. Buy an iPad in the US and you are liable to be extradited if you use it to send an e mail that the US Government believes is a crime.
Surely we should have as a basic Liberal principal that if someone has committed a crime in the UK, they should be tried here? And that should apply to Abu Hamza, vile though he is, as much as Gary McKinnon, and it should apply to extradition to any other country, including our EU partners as well as to the US.
* Simon McGrath is Membership Officer of Merton Lib Dems, writing in a personal capacity