Friday, October 14, 2005

Dutch court blocks Egyptian's extradition to US

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - A Dutch court blocked the extradition to the United States on Wednesday of a man with Dutch and Egyptian nationality suspected of links to al Qaeda, citing insufficient guarantees over the suspect's basic rights.

The Hague court confirmed a preliminary finding, voicing concerns the suspect could be subject to sweeping presidential powers enacted after the September 11, 2001 al Qaeda attacks allowing suspects to be detained indefinitely without charge.

The man, whose name was withheld by the court, is suspected of telecommunications fraud with the aim of facilitating contacts between al Qaeda operatives.

"The risk that the petitioner will be confronted with suspicions of involvement in the al Qaeda network is certainly not imaginary," the court said in the preliminary finding in August.

"This gives sufficient reason to believe that with regard to him, fundamental legal guarantees -- such as direct, unlimited and undisturbed contact with a lawyer and timely access to a judge -- could be threatened."

The court upheld this ruling on Wednesday, saying a U.S. diplomatic note was not specific and insufficient.

In the note, cited in the judgment, the U.S. embassy in The Hague said it viewed the request for guarantees as unwarranted and unnecessary.

It pointed to a provision in the extradition treaty between the United States and the Netherlands that declares that a suspect can only be tried for offences for which they have been extradited.

"We note that persons extradited to the United States are accorded, at their trial, the full panoply of rights under United States law, including under the United States constitution," the note said.

In the case of Jose Padilla, a U.S. citizen who has been held in a South Carolina Navy prison for more than three years as a suspected enemy combatant without being charged, a federal appeals court ruled in September that President George W. Bush has the power to detain him.

The appeals court reversed a decision by a federal judge in South Carolina who ruled in February that Bush had no authority to have Padilla held as an enemy combatant. The judge said Padilla must be released if he is not charged with a crime.


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