Monday 1 December 2003

US furious as Britain ignores extradition plea

"I'm not a poodle, honest I'm not! See! I can say no to Him."

America yesterday expressed fury that the Home Office has not handed over Dr Bashir Nafi, the British academic charged with racketeering and conspiracy to commit acts of terrorism for a Palestinian group.

An official in the US Department of Justice said: "I thought the Brits were on our side in the war against terrorism. But when something like this happens, you wonder."

The official said the Department had requested that Dr Nafi, a London University lecturer, be extradited for trial in the US more than two weeks ago.

The Home Office denied that it had been obstructive or failed to act on a US request to extradite Dr Bashir.

"We have received no arrest warrant from the US and no extradition request," a spokesman said. "It is up to the country that wants to talk to a suspect to start legal proceedings. If an arrest warrant was to be received, we would act upon it. We have the closest relationship with the US."

The Home Office spokesman did not deny, however, that Britain had known about the allegations against Dr Nafi for some time. He said that Dr Nafi could not be arrested under English law because "he has not broken the law in this country".

Dr Nafi, 50, who is originally from Egypt and holds Egyptian and Irish passports, insists that he is "totally innocent", and that the case against him is "a witch-hunt".

According to the US indictment, however, he has a serious case to answer. Charges against Dr Nafi, who lectures on Islamic history at Birkbeck College, include "conspiracy to murder, maim or injure persons outside the United States".

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