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UK rejects French terror extradition

LONDON, England -- A British court has refused to extradite a suspected Islamic extremist to France to face charges in connection with terror attacks which left 10 people dead and injured 180 others.

UK Home Secretary David Blunkett had approved Algerian Rachid Ramda's extradition.

But at the High Court, in London on Thursday, Lord Justice Sedley quashed Blunkett's decision and said he must reconsider the case.

Sedley said the court was unable to accept that the Home Secretary had "adequately or fairly addressed the issues" raised by the case.

He said: "The Secretary of State's decision to order Ramda's return to France will be quashed."

The court's ruling came because evidence against Ramda had come from a co-accused, Boualem Bensaid, who, it was alleged, had suffered ill-treatment by the French whilst under interrogation.

The court's decision is the latest stage in a six-year battle by Ramda, 32, who has been in custody in Britain since 1995, to avoid extradition.

Sedley said Ramda was wanted for trial "in connection with a series of terrorist bombings in France between July and October 1995 which resulted in much destruction and injury."

Blunkett had yet to give "a properly reasoned response" to at least two questions, said the judge.

"One is whether there was any investigation at all of the original complaint of ill treatment of Bensaid.

"The other is whether the French courts, given the record now available of their later decisions in relation to Bensaid, will entertain any request by the claimant (Ramda) to exclude Bensaid's confessions."

Ramda, an alleged member of Algeria's Armed Islamic Group, is wanted in France in connection with a series of bombings, including one at the St. Michel metro station, in Paris, on July 25, 1995, in which eight people died and more than 30 were injured.

He is alleged to have been the banker of the Armed Islamic Group, which claimed responsibility for the bombing and for attacks at two other Paris metro stations -- Musee d'Orsay and Maison-Blanche -- in October 1995.

Two other suspects -- alleged bomb expert Smain Ait Belkacem and alleged network coordinator Bensaid -- were convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison in September 1999 for "criminal association in relation with a terrorist enterprise."


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