Former Durham academic wins court battle against extradition

First published in News The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter (Durham)

A FORMER university academic and Iranian diplomat has won a High Court battle in his attempt to avoid extradition to the US.

Nosratollah Tajik, a former teacher at Durham University’s Institute for Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies and Iranian ambassador to Jordan from 1999 to 2003, was arrested in a raid on his home in Coxhoe, County Durham, in October 2006, on suspicion of conspiring to smuggle US arms to Iran.

The raid followed an undercover sting operation in London, in which agents from the US Department of Homeland Security pretended to be co-conspirators.

His extradition was delayed amid fears it could hurt UK-Iran relations and put staff at the British Embassy in Tehran at risk.

Today (November 27), Lord Justice Moses, sitting with Mr Justice Sweeney, ruled that Mr Tajik “has escaped extradition” because of a failure to “show reasonable cause” for the delays.

He will now be set free unless the Home Secretary and US government appeal to the Supreme Court within 14 days.

A Home Office spokesman said it was disappointed with the court’s decision and would decide whether to appeal shortly.

Outside court, Mr Tajik, a married father-of-two, said the extradition moves against him were politically motivated and the judges had made a brave decision.

He said he had effectively been a hostage embroiled in legal proceedings that had seriously affected his family and damaged his health, he added.

Now living in London, he is subject to a night-time curfew and must wear an electronic tag.

If extradited and convicted, he would face up to ten years in jail.

Alun Jones QC, for Mr Tajik, told the court his removal would be oppressive and his heart and other health problems made it unlikely he would survive the rigours of the US judicial system and prison.

Hugo Keith QC, for Home Secretary Theresa May, said delays had occurred because ministers wanted to see if the US government wished to withdraw its request as there was a ‘real and immediate threat to UK embassy personnel in Tehran’ if his extradition went ahead.

Last year, Wikileaks published a US diplomatic cable suggesting the UK Government put the extradition on hold to protect sensitive nuclear talks with Iran.

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