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Supporters plead to keep Orpington missile man in UK

Christopher Tappin

Christopher Tappin

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Human rights campaigners have urged politicians to honour promises for fairer extradition laws in light of a businessman facing up to 35 years in a US jail.

Gary McKinnon, facing 70 years in jail, attends a press conference in January 2009 in an attempt to urge the Prime Minister to prevent his extradition to the US.

American authorities want to try president of Kent Country Golf Union Christopher Tappin, from Orpington, on charges of selling Iran missile parts, which he denies.

On Tuesday Home Secretary Theresa May said she would look at reviewing extradition laws which could help the plight of Mr Tappin and alleged NASA computer hacker Gary McKinnon, also facing years in a US prison.

Policy officer at human rights group Liberty Anita Coles said: “Under our current extradition laws a British court can’t stop extradition even if, as with Christopher Tappin, a significant part of the alleged criminal conduct took place in the UK.

“Yet four years ago laws were passed that would give a British court the discretion not to extradite. The Government now has the opportunity to activate this ready made safeguard and restore fairness to our flawed extradition arrangements.”

The group staged a protest outside Mr Tappin’s extradition hearing at Westminster Magistrates Court last Thursday (2).

The 63-year-old claims he was ‘entrapped’ by US agents. His solicitor Ben Cooper said: “Mr Tappin fully denies the allegations. He also contends that he was the victim of the unlawful conduct of US agents who pretended to belong to a company known as Mercury Global Enterprises.”

But, Aaron Watkins, representing the US authorities, said the allegation of dishonesty against Mr Tappin was sufficient for extradition to proceed.

He said: “If he is conspiring with others, albeit others that are law enforcement officers, if he forms a dishonest intent, that’s the end of the matter.”

The case was adjourned until November 4 by District Judge John Zani when a decision will be made on whether he will be sent to the US.

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