EU's 'unjust' extradition rules

UKIP MEP Gerard Batten reacts to news a young British man, Andrew Symeou, is to be extradited to Gre

British citizens can be extradited to other European Union countries with minimal safeguards against injustice something amply illustrated by the case of Andrew Symeou a nineteen-year-old London man.

In July 2007 Mr Symeou took a holiday on the Greek Island of Zante. He returned home on 22nd July and told his parents what an enjoyable time he'd had. On 20th July in the Rescue nightclub another young man, Jonathon Hiles, was allegedly punched or pushed from a raised dance podium and sustained head injuries from which he died on 22 July.

On 24 July two young friends of Mr Symeou who remained on Zante were taken into police custody for questioning. According to them they were held for over eight hours, deprived of food and water, beaten, punched, slapped and threatened until they signed statements written in Greek implicating Mr Symeou in the death of Mr Hiles. As soon as they were freed from custody they contacted British consular officials, reported their alleged mistreatment and retracted their statements.

The only evidence against Mr Symeou consists of physical descriptions of the assailant that don't match him, and the statements extracted from his friends under duress. The incident took place at about 1am and Mr Syemou claims that he visited the nightclub at about 4am and stayed for only about 20 minutes.

Mr Symeou claims that he did not even know about the incident until his friends returned home and told him, and that he never knew, met or saw Mr Hiles. Mr Symeou was never invited to give his version of events to Greek police or summoned before a Greek court, but almost one year later on 18th June 2008 a European Arrest Warrant was issued in the UK for his extradition to Greece.

On 12th August Mr Symeou found himself in the Horseferry Magistrates Court. The European Arrest Warrant was introduced into force on 1st January 2004 under the usual justification of protecting us against organised crime and terrorism. All that is required for the deportation of a suspect under an EAW is basic information about their identity and the alleged offence.

There are thirty-two categories of crime for which extradition may be sought, some of them not specific offences under English law. There is no provision for a British court to be allowed to assure itself that there is a proper case for the accused to answer by means of examining prima facie evidence, and there is no provision for the magistrate hearing the extradition case, or indeed the home secretary, to have any discretion to refuse extradition if they believe or know that an injustice is being done.

The safeguards against misuse are absolutely minimal: provided that the correct information has been provided (which is minimal) then a British citizen can be extradited to another EU member state with as much ceremony as posting a parcel. Andrew Symeou's lawyer was only able to oppose extradition because he had managed to obtain copies of the Greek authority's paperwork and contended that they had not followed their own legal procedures correctly.

The European Arrest Warrant is another manifestation of the European Union's headlong flight into harmonisation of all things, in this case Europe's legal systems. This has profound implications for all of us: any one of us, our children, wives, husbands, relatives or friends could face extradition to any EU country without a British court being able to hear even basic evidence and being satisfied there is a case to answer.

Mr Symeou found himself back in the Horesferry Magistrates Court on 30th October to hear their ruling.

The Court found against Mr Symeou, and although he has seven days to appeal, it is likely he will face extradition to Greece to face months or years in prison waiting for his case to be heard.

British courts now have no power to consider the evidence against a British citizen who is the subject extradition under a European Arrest Warrant. They have no power to prevent injustices being done even if it is manifestly obvious that that is about to happen.

In all of this we must not forget the victim, Jonathan Hiles and his family. They are entitled to justice as much as defendant is entitled to protection. But in these circumstances surely the family and friends of the victim, just as much as those of the defendant, would want to know that the correct person is facing extradition and trial by means of the safeguard that a British court can hear the prima facie evidence against them and rule that there is a proper case to answer? Neither party now enjoys that safeguard.

Gerard Batten is UKIP MEP for London

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The spread of Wahhabism, and the West’s responsibility to the world

In 2013, the European Union declared Wahhabism the main source of global terrorism. But it's not just a “Middle East problem”; it is our problem, too.

François Hollande’s declaration of war against Isis (also known as Islamic State) was, perhaps, a natural reaction to the carnage in Paris but the situation is now so grave that we cannot merely react; we also need sustained, informed and objective reflection. The French president has unwittingly played into the hands of Isis leaders, who have long claimed to be at war with the West and can now present themselves as noble ­resistance fighters. Instead of bombing Isis targets and, in the process, killing hapless civilians, western forces could more profitably strengthen the Turkish borders with Syria, since Turkey has become by far the most important strategic base of Isis jihadis.

We cannot afford to allow our grief and outrage to segue into self-righteousness. This is not just the “Middle East problem”; it is our problem, too. Our colonial arrangements, the inherent instability of the states we created and our support of authoritarian leaders have all contributed to the terrifying disintegration of social order in the region today. Many of the western leaders (including our own Prime Minister) who marched for liberté in Paris after the Charlie Hebdo massacre were heads of countries that, for decades, have backed regimes in Muslim-majority countries that denied their subjects any freedom of expression – often with disastrous results.

One of these regimes is Saudi Arabia. Despite its dismal human rights record, the kingdom has been central to western foreign policy in the Middle East since the 1970s and western governments have therefore tacitly condoned its “Wahhabisation” of the Muslim world. Wahhabism originated in the Arabian peninsula during the 18th century as an attempt to return to the pristine Islam of the Prophet Muhammad. Hence, Wahhabis came to denounce all later developments – such as Sufism and Shia Islam – as heretical innovations.

Yet this represented a radical departure from the Quran, which insists emphatically that there must be “no coercion in matters of faith” (2:256) and that religious pluralism is God’s will (5:48). After the Iranian Revolution, the Saudis used their immense wealth to counter the power of Shia Islam by funding the building of mosques with Wahhabi preachers and establishing madrasas that provided free education to the poor. Thus, to the intense dismay of many in the Muslim world, an entire generation has grown up with this maverick form of Islam – in Europe and the US, as well as in Pakistan, Jordan and Malaysia.

In 2013, the European Union declared that Wahhabism was the main source of global terrorism. It is probably more accurate, however, to say that the narrowness of the Wahhabi vision is a fertile soil in which extremism can flourish. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, Wahhabi chieftains did indeed conduct violent military expeditions against the Shia but, during the 1930s, the Saudi kingdom abandoned military jihad and Wahhabism became a religiously conservative movement. Today, some members of the Saudi ruling class support Isis but the Grand Mufti has condemned it in the strongest terms. Like Osama Bin Laden, Isis leaders aim to overthrow the Saudi regime and see their movement as a rebellion against modern Wahhabism.

Military action in Syria will not extirpate Islamist extremism elsewhere. In order to be fully successful, President Hollande’s campaign must also include a review of domestic policy. France has signally failed to integrate its Muslim population. Most of the terrorists responsible for the atrocities of 13 November appear to have been disaffected French nationals. So, too, were the Kouachi brothers, who committed the Charlie Hebdo massacre, and Amedy Coulibaly, who hijacked the Jewish supermarket in January. All three lived in notoriously deprived suburbs of Paris and – evoking France’s colonial past – were of Algerian and Malian descent. Psychiatrists who have investigated people involved in the 9/11 plot and in subsequent attacks have found that these terrorists were not chiefly motivated by religion. Far more pressing has been the desire to escape a ­stifling sense of insignificance. Powerless at home, many of them alienated by the host culture, young Muslim men in the West are attracted by the strong masculine figure of the jihadi and the prospect of living in a like-minded community, convinced that a heroic death will give their lives meaning. 

As they debate the feasibility of British air strikes in Syria, some MPs have insisted that they must be accompanied by negotiation and diplomacy. Again, these cannot be conducted in a spirit of superior righteousness. There must be a recognition that the West is not the only victim of Muslim extremism. We seem curiously blind to this. Far more Muslims than non-Muslims have been killed by Isis, yet this is rarely mentioned. Two weeks before the Charlie Hebdo atrocities in January, the Taliban murdered 145 Pakistanis, most of them children; two days after it, Boko Haram slaughtered as many as 2,000 villagers in Nigeria. Yet, compared with the Paris attack, the media coverage in the West was perfunctory. There has been little acknowledgment that the refugees whom many would seek to exclude from Europe have experienced the horrors we saw in Paris on a regular basis in Syria or Iraq. Already we seem to have forgotten that more than 40 people in Beirut were killed by two Isis suicide bombers on 12 November.

This heedlessness – a form, perhaps, of denial – does not go unnoticed in the Muslim world. The Iraq War showed that a military campaign cannot succeed if it fails to respect the sensibilities of the local people. Western governments must understand that their ­nations bear considerable responsibility for the present crisis – Isis is, after all, the product of the ill-considered Iraq War. And, as long as we mourn only our own dead, we cannot escape the accusation – frequently heard in the developing world – that the West has created a global hierarchy in which some lives are more valuable than others.

Karen Armstrong is the author of “Fields of Blood: Religion and the History of Violence” (Vintage)

This article first appeared in the 26 November 2015 issue of the New Statesman, Terror vs the State