Terror suspect loses British extradition appeal

A suspected al-Qaida member removed to Spain to face trial for allegedly conspiring in the 9/11 terror attacks in the US has lost his High Court bid to get back to the UK.

A suspected al-Qaida member removed to Spain to face trial for allegedly conspiring in the 9/11 terror attacks in the US has lost his High Court bid to get back to the UK.

Farid Hilali was extradited under a European arrest warrant (EAW) following a four-year legal battle that went right up to the House of Lords.

The 39-year-old Moroccan was originally arrested in London in June 2004 under the warrant.

He is accused of conspiring in the 9/11 attacks via a Madrid al Qaida cell, and was eventually surrendered to Spain in February this year.

Today two senior judges rejected accusations by his lawyers that the Spanish authorities had “ignored” a law lords ruling that he could only be tried for conspiracy to murder persons in the US and destroying, damaging or endangering aircraft.

Alun Jones QC, appearing for Hilali, said he was facing investigation in Madrid for the offence of “membership of a terrorist organisation”, despite the law lords decision, and he was entitled to be returned to Britain.

Mr Jones accused the Spanish authorities of acting in clear breach of the “rule of speciality” observed under the European Convention on Extradition.

The rule states that a person will only be dealt with for the offences for which he is extradited and no other, unless he is first afforded a reasonable opportunity to leave the country to which he has been returned.

But Lord Justice Dyson and Mr Justice Griffith Williams, sitting in London, rejected the challenge.

They ruled in a joint written judgment that the crucial fact was that Hilali had been charged by the Spanish with conspiracy to “commit terrorist murder through membership of a terrorist organisation, al Qaida”.

The charge “properly reflects the basis on which the claimant was surrendered to Spain”, said the judges.

“The attacks on September 11, 2001 were carried out by al Qaida, and the reference to al Qaida is relevant background.”

Both judges also clarified a point of law affecting the wider operation of the EAW scheme.

They declared that, in any event, UK courts had no jurisdiction to order a state to which a suspect had been surrendered to return that person to the UK on the grounds that there had been a rule breach.

The judges said the Spanish authorities were “trusted extradition partners” and parties to the European Framework Decision of 2002 that required extradition rules to be obeyed.

In the “unlikely” event of an alleged breach, Hilali had the right to challenge it in Spain itself and, if necessary, in the European Court of Human Rights.

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