US & Canada

Christopher Tappin extradited to US on missile charges

A Briton extradited to the US for allegedly selling batteries for Iranian missiles has been taken into custody after arriving in Texas.

Retired businessman Christopher Tappin, 65, landed in Houston at 23:00GMT, after flying in from Heathrow.

He will make his first court appearance in El Paso on Monday.

Dan Cogdell, Mr Tappin's lawyer in the US, said he would "vigorously argue" for his client to be released on bail.

"There is no reasonable basis to believe that he is a flight risk or a danger. He is a respected businessman with no criminal record whatsoever," Mr Cogdell told BBC News.

Mr Tappin, of Orpington, south-east London, has fought against extradition through the British courts after being charged in the US with conspiring to export batteries which could be used in Hawk air defence missiles.

He faces a trial and a possible 35-year jail sentence - but says that he is the victim of entrapment.

British judges say the extradition is lawful and the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg has refused to intervene.

Plea agreement

Mr Tappin's lawyer, Karen Todner, said her client would likely enter into a plea agreement to reduce any sentence that may be imposed.

Last week the European Court of Human Rights refused to intervene in his case. Mr Tappin, a former president of the Kent Golf Society, was ordered to present himself to Heathrow Airport to be taken to the US for trial.

He left his house at around 08:00 GMT and arrived at Heathrow police station accompanied by his wife Elaine.

Shortly after 10.30am, British extradition officers took Mr Tappin to a plane where he was handed over to US marshals.

He will now be kept in custody over the weekend until his first court appearance on Monday morning and is not expected to be granted bail until Thursday or Friday.

On his arrival at Heathrow, Mr Tappin told reporters it was a "disgrace" that he was being extradited.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister David Cameron said that Mr Tappin's case had been thoroughly considered by Home Secretary Theresa May - but that she was also looking carefully at the full findings of last year's extradition review.

Mr Tappin said: "I look to Mr Cameron to look after my rights and he has failed to do so.

"The Conservative government, while in opposition, promised to reform the law and they failed to do so and they've let me down, they've let you down, they've let the whole country down."

Mr Tappin said he was "not very confident at all" about the case because his witnesses were not permitted to testify via video and would not appear in person in the US.

Speaking to the BBC earlier, Mr Tappin attacked the UK-US Extradition Treaty, saying he felt he had been treated "very unfairly" by the British justice system.

Comparing his case to that of preacher Abu Qatada, whose deportation from the UK to Jordan was recently blocked, Mr Tappin added: "I feel that I don't have any human rights because I'm not a terrorist. If I was a terrorist, I would have more rights."

However, the prime minister's official spokesman said the two were "completely different cases."

'Years of talk'

Mr Tappin denies the allegations against him and says he is the victim of unlawful conduct by US law enforcement agents. In January, the Court of Appeal dismissed that argument , giving the green light to the extradition.

The Home Secretary authorised Mr Tappin's extradition in April 2011. The extradition request has also been approved by the High Court and Court of Appeal.

On Thursday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that under the UK-US extradition treaty, certain procedures had to be followed and that was what had happened in Mr Tappin's case.

Critics of the treaty say it makes the extradition of British nationals easier because the US authorities have to produce less evidence to support their case.

But last year, a massive review of extradition by a senior judge found that the treaty was fair to British citizens.

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