Spain/UK: Extradited suspect complains of treatment in Spain

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Spain/UK: Extradited suspect complains of treatment in Spain

Moroccan national Farid Hilali (see Statewatch bulletin, vol 16 nos. 5/6 and vol. 17 no. 2), extradited from the UK to Spain on 8 February 2008 to face charges of terrorist activity, has complained about his treatment, detention in solitary confinement and the confiscation of legal papers he needs to prepare a defence of his case. Spanish authorities are also alleged to have breached the terms of extradition assurances given to UK courts by Spanish prosecutor Pedro Rubira, who is also said to have secured the extradition on the basis of unsound evidence. The extradition was based on a European arrest warrant issued in 2004 and concerned a conspiracy to murder with a defendant, Eddin Barakat Yarkas, who was acquitted of murder and found guilty of lesser charges of conspiracy to murder when he was tried in Madrid. The Spanish Supreme Court overturned the conviction on appeal and noted that the tape recording of the alleged conversation had been "lost", had been "illegally obtained" and "did not prove the conspiracy alleged".

In a letter to his lawyer, Muddassar Arani of Arani solicitors, Hilali wrote of his journey and treatment, including being handcuffed in the back of a small jet in which he was flown to Madrid throughout the 4-hour journey, and being "paraded like an animal" in front of camera men and photographers on arrival. Hilali claims the atmosphere was hostile, that he was kept waiting in a cold cell for hours without being given anything to eat or drink, that he waited for an hour and a half for a doctor who refused to give him something to soothe his cough, and that when he was called, the judge's clerk gave him a bag containing the case against him in Spanish and tried to get him to sign a document. Hilali refused and remained silent, saying his solicitor would speak for him.

After he was taken to Soto del Real prison, Hilali and his possessions were searched, with many articles and English money taken from him, before he was placed in a wing for newcomers. On the next day, he was taken to the isolation unit (regimen especial), closed in a cell and had his legal documents and other items taken from him. The two-page explanation document he was issued for being held incommunicado stated that it was for security reasons, for the good order of the establishment and due to nature of charges against him, subject to review six months later. In fact, isolation is employed in almost-systematic fashion in Spain with regards to people accused of terrorist offences. Other conditions imposed include the monitoring of phone calls and correspondence, spending all day in a cell except for three hours in the yard per day, a maximum of three five-minute phone calls per week and sending a maximum of two letters per week. Hilali, who did not declare when questioned by judge Baltasar Garzón, sees isolation as punishment and as a means to "limit my access to to the solicitor and my family and the outside world", a situation compounded by the impossibility to defend himself effectively: "How can I prepare my case and give instructions to my solicitor if I am not even allowed my legal documents", something he describes as a violation of his human rights.

The assurances offered by Spanish authorities, led Lord Justice Baker to say on 26 May 2006, that: "We are ... quite satisfied from what we have read from the Spanish authorities that the appellant faces no possibility of detention incommunicado... He will not be held incommunicado or in solitary confinement". This is precisely the current situation, Arani solicitors argue, and "without opportunity for this status to be reviewed for six months". Furthermore, Hilali is facing charges that were explicitly prohibited in the House of Lords Judgment authorising the extradition on 29 January 2008. While the Spanish prosecutor, Mr. Rubira, stated that Hilali was "accused of participation in a terrorist organisation", the judgment noted that "It was important to make it plain in the extradition order that this was not an offence for which the respondent can be prosecuted as he is entitled to the protection of the specialty rule with regard to it".

Action alert: Farid suffering in Spain, by and Arani Solicitors 10.3.2008.

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