A retired British businessman accused of trying to sell missile parts to Iran was extradited to the US yesterday, claiming it was a “disgrace” that a terror suspect had more rights than him.
Christopher Tappin criticised David Cameron for failing to stand up for him as he arrived at Heathrow police station, bound for El Paso in Texas.
He said he had fewer entitlements than Abu Qatada, a radical cleric deemed to pose a threat to the UK’s national security, whose extradition to Jordan has been blocked by European human rights judges.
Mr Tappin lost his two-year battle against extradition last week and faces up to 35 years in jail if found guilty of arms dealing charges.
His case brings the UK’s extradition treaty with the US back under the spotlight. Critics have complained that the arrangements are one-sided in favour of Americans.
Mr Tappin said: “I look to Mr Cameron to look after my rights and he has failed to do so.
“I have no rights. Abu Qatada is walking the streets of London today and we cannot extradite him. He has more rights than I have.
“If I was a terrorist, I would not be going to America. I think it’s a shame, a disgrace.
“The Conservative Government, while in opposition, promised to reform the law and they failed to do so and they’ve let me down, they’ve let you down, they’ve let the whole country down.”
Speaking shortly before he was cuffed and seated on the plane between two US marshals, Mr Tappin said he was keen to prove his innocence but admitted he was “not sure what’s going to happen”.
He added that he was “not very confident at all” about his case, mainly because his UK-based witnesses will not travel to the hearing and US authorities do not allow video interrogation.
He said it seemed “ridiculous and a disgrace to our country” that the US was allowed to extradite people “by virtue of an accusation”.
Mr Tappin has been caring for his wife Elaine, who has the rare autoimmune condition Churg-Strauss Syndrome. She cried as he spoke.
The 65-year-old, from Orpington, south east London, denies attempting to sell batteries for surface-to-air missiles which were to be shipped from the US to Tehran via the Netherlands.
He has said that, for justice to be done, he should be tried by a jury of his peers in the UK, not a jury 3,000 miles away.
But magistrates and the High Court backed his extradition and he exhausted his appeal options earlier this month when a last-ditch plea to human rights judges was rejected.
Mr Tappin’s lawyer, Karen Todner, said he would be remanded in a local jail until Monday, pending a bail hearing at the US district court in the western district of Texas.
She added that it was “the procedure for the Americans to require three days adjournment to consider the bail application so the earliest he can consider obtaining bail is Thursday”.
Mr Tappin’s MP, Jo Johnson, has asked Home Secretary Theresa May to intervene to ensure the US authorities do not object to his bail on Monday, Ms Todner said.
The Government’s attempts to deport Qatada to Jordan, where he faces terror charges, have been blocked after the European Court of Human Rights ruled it needed further assurances that evidence gained through torture would not be used against him.
But the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “They are completely different cases.”
Mr Cameron said on Wednesday that the Government would carry out a “proper, sober and thoughtful” review of the UK’s extradition arrangements with the US.
But he added that it was important to remember that extradition treaties “show respect to each other’s judicial processes and make sure that people who are accused of crimes are tried for those crimes”.
“Britain can benefit from that as well,” he said.
An independent review of the UK’s extradition arrangements by retired Court of Appeal judge Sir Scott Baker last year found that the current treaty between the US and the UK was both balanced and fair.