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Christopher Tappin slams US extradition treaty

Christopher Tappin Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption Tappin said a prison warden told him his solitary confinement was because he opposed extradition

A retired businessman who was jailed in the US after he admitted selling weapon parts to Iran has spoken out against extradition laws which he has says are weighted in America's favour.

Christopher Tappin, 69, from Orpington, south east London, served his 33-month term in Pennsylvania and the UK.

He claims he was kept in solitary confinement in the US as punishment for fighting extradition.

The Home Office said safeguards were in place to protect British nationals.

In an exclusive interview with the BBC, Tappin said during his jail term a US prison warden asked him if he knew why he was being kept in solitary confinement and whether he had fought extradition.

"I said 'yes, I went through my legal process through the channels that are open to me' - he said 'well boy, that's the reason why. You oppose the US, this is what happens to you'."

In a call for an "even playing field" with the US over extradition, he said: "They won't allow anyone to come over to our country without a prima facie case. We shouldn't do either."

Tappin said he could have been jailed for 35 years at age 65 and therefore had no option but to make a plea bargain.

'Robust safeguards'

Plea bargaining is common in the US, with defendants often able to secure a more lenient sentence if they admit an offence.

A Home Office statement said: "This government has reformed the UK's extradition arrangements to make them more open and transparent and to put in place robust safeguards to protect British subjects."

But extradition lawyer Julian Knowles said the problem was not so much the treaty as the US criminal justice system.

He said: "In the US, if you fight your case you quite often get a savage sentence and that's what Mr Tappin was threatened with.

"Many people are just forced to plead guilty because they can't take the risk of fighting the case and losing, and if they plead guilty they get a lesser sentence.

"The problem is the US has such a savage sentencing regime so people whose extradition is sought from the UK feel they have to go back and just give in rather than fight because the price they will pay for fighting is just too high."

Tappin admitted aiding and abetting the illegal export of defence articles in 2012 and was jailed in January 2013.

He was returned to the UK that September and released in 2014.

The former director of Surrey-based Brooklands International Freight Services and former president of Kent Golf Union had denied trying to sell batteries for surface-to-air missiles to be shipped from the US to Tehran.

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