Farid Hilali, who is the first person who is being extradited under the new European Arrest Warrant, actually appeared at Bow Street Magistrates Court yesterday,
This new extradition procedure should be under microscopic scrutiny by the media and others, since the reported "evidence" against Hilali seems to be vague and circumstantial, and some of it should be inadmissible under current laws.
"Farid Hilali, 35, phoned Imad Eddin Barakat Yarkas, who is suspected of leading an al-Qaeda cell in Spain, a few weeks before the attacks on the US, said a prosecutor, James Lewis. He was speaking at Bow Street magistrates' court in London for the Spanish government in its effort to extradite Hilali from the UK.
The Moroccan told Yarkas "he had a month to go and that he had some important matters to do ... Everything was going to be fine He had entered into the aviation sector He had slit the throat of the bird", interpreted as code for the United States, Mr Lewis said.
Hilali allegedly spoke to Yarkas after the attacks of being "sick," code for under police surveillance, the prosecutor said. "
This is hardly smoking gun stuff, with no actual mention of anything illegal, or of a particular target. How can it actually be proven that the word "sick" did have the meaning attributed to it ?
"The arrest warrant claims Hilali is participating 'in a commando (group) that is being trained on aircrafts, a few days before the attacks of 11 September, 2001' and he directed al Qaida activities.
The court also heard of a wedding video seized in Germany, also implicating Hilali through his connection with Yarkas. "
A wedding video is unlikely to have recorded any actual illegal plotting. All that it might establish is that some people might have met each other. That is not evidence of a crime.
Judge Timothy Workman remanded the suspect in prison until a further hearing on July 29.
The extradition case is expected to be decided some time in September.
June until September does not seem to be a very "fast track" extradition procedure.
Questions which should be answered before this European Arrest Warrant Extradition is permitted:
- The two alleged phone calls, presumably mobile phone calls
reported to have been made from New Cross or Peckham.
- Were both the phone call on August 27th before Sept 11th 2001 attack and the one after the attack made using the same mobile phone ?
- What evidence links Farid Hilali with this phone or phones ?
- Were these phones registered in his name ?
- Were these phones found in his possession when he was arrested in September 2003 ?
- Did he purchase phone credits through a traceable credit card etc ?
- Does any Communications Traffic Data i.e. itemised phone bill link this phone or phones to identifiable members of Farid Hilali's family or workmates etc ?
- Or were the mobile phones used "untraceable" and the only evidence that Hilali might be "Shakur" comes from the alleged voice analysis ?
- Is the only link to "'Shakur"' the similar sounding tribal clan name of "'Shukri", which is attributed to Farid Hilal ? e.g. like "Saddam Hussein" is more formally "Saddam Hussein al-Tikriti"
- Why is any of the mobile phone intercept "evidence" being presented in a UK court, when it should not be admissable or even mentioned , according the the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act section 17 and 18 ?
- How were the authenticated voice samples of Farid Hilali obtained from him, when he was in Belmarsh prison under an immigration charge ?
- Who actually conducte dthis voice analysis and identification of Hilali as "Shakur" ?
- Was it UK police authorities ?
- Was it the Spanish Police Unidad Central de Información Exterior (UCIE) ?
- Where are the expert witnesses from eithe rof these organisations who can show an unbroken chain of evidence regarding these recordings and "voice analysis" ?
- Was Farid Hilali under surveillance before his arrest in September 2003 ?
- Was an intrusive surveillance warrant under RIPA obtained and passed by the Office of the Surveillance Commissioner to obtain these voice recordings ?
- Was Farid Hilali arrested initially under the Terrorism Act 2000 or but then not charged and held under an Immigration offence ?
- Or is he one of the special category foreign national terrorist suspects held incognito under the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 ?
- How does the wedding video from Germany prove any link to the September 11th attackers ?
- Is there actual evidence of a plot conversation recorded on this video ?
- How can the authenticity of this video be proven, as it apparently comes from neither the UK nor from Spain, but allegedly from a seizure in Germany, but the wedding could have been in Morocco ?
- Is Farid Hilali a member of a proscribed terrorist organisation ?
- If he is, then why has he not been charged under the UK Terrorism Act 2000 ?
- Is there any evidence of Hilali sending or receiving large amounts of money to finance or support any proscribed terrorist organisation ?
- If there is, then why has he not been charged under the UK Terrorism Act 2000 ?
- Under the European Arrest Warrant, what safeguards are there to prevent Hilali being charged with other unspecified offences once the Spanish authorities get custody of him ? The so called principle of "Speciality" under clause 17 of the Extradition Act 2003
These questions are the sort of thing that we would expect a United Kingdom court to be satisfy itself to check if there is sufficient evidence to proceed with an extradition under the new European Arrest Warrant scheme.
From the media reports so far, it does not appear that there is any evidence that Hilali was involved in the September 11th 2001 plot.
All the reported evidence so far, seems to be of the electronic variety and could easily have been misinterpreted or undetectably edited or forged in order to "fit up" a case against a possible sympathiser, thereby making him out to be a "key terrorist plotter" in the September 11th 2001 attacks.
Whatever the truth about Farid Hilali, it would be an unacceptable attack on all our civil liberties in the UK, if someone can be extradited on a European Arrest Warrant on such apparently flimsy evidence.
If the proper rule of law and evidential procedures are ignored or the safeguards under UK law are sidestepped, simply because of the European Arrest Warrant dimension, then the terrorists will have won a victory against our core societal values.