Chris Tappin, currently being extradited from the UK to the US after allegedly transporting parts for Iranian missiles, has told the Times of London that he is scared of the “vivid and barbaric” experiences in America’s prison system.
Asked which prison gang he plans to join, Tappin replied “I suppose whichever one gives the most protection. […] I’ve never been in a gang before.”
The idea of 65-year-old retired businessman Tappin joining a prison gang may be ridiculous, but the Tappin case has been strange from the beginning.
Tappin ran a UK shipping firm before retiring in 2008. In 2006 he was contacted by another British businessman, and arranged for the shipping of five industrial batteries from Texas to an automotive company in Amsterdam.
Unknown to Tappin, these batteries were being sold by Mercury Global Enterprises (MGE), an El Paso-based front company set up by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement to catch those seeking to sell the batteries (which were in fact not car batteries), which can be used for missiles by Iran.
Tappin claims he had no idea the batteries were due to go anywhere other than Amsterdam, and had no idea they could be used in missiles. However, the man who contacted him, Robert Gibson, reportedly provided evidence that incriminated Tappin.
Tappin was indicted by a jury in El Paso with no chance to defend himself or hear the evidence. Tappin fought for two years against the extradition, but was finally extradited today. The case is extremely controversial in the UK, the Independent reports.
Critics of his extradition say that the US-UK extradition treaty works largely in the US’s favour — effectively allowing people to be extradited “by virtue of an accusation”, Tappin says. Tappin claims he is a victim of entrapment by the US agencies involved, and should face a trial from his UK peers.
“No British court has ever been allowed to examine any evidence against Christopher Tappin or consider whether he should be tried here,” Isabella Sankey, director of policy for civil rights group Liberty, told the Telegraph.
“Even if a US jury eventually finds him not guilty, he’ll still spend years in a Texan jail awaiting trial – thousands of miles from his home and sick wife [Tappin’s wife has chronic Churg-Strauss Syndrome].”
If Tappin refuses to take a plea bargain (which could see him serve a shorter term in a UK prison), Tappin may face 35 years in a US jail.
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