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Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Thailand Demands Extradition - then withdraws...

I have just surfaced from a fresh nightmare that might have been fatal. Three years ago Thailand had its first success with extradition from the west in 100 years. An expat Birmingham kickboxer Lee Aldhouse killed a US marine in a Phuket bar fight. After many appeals, the kickboxer was sent to Thailand to stand trial for murder. This success led them to turn to another name long on its list. I’ve spent a couple of years fighting the Thai extradition claim to have me stand trial on the 25-year-old drug case from which I fled in the mid-‘90s. I was arrested in 2014, imprisoned at Wandsworth, and challenged the case at Westminster Court. Just two weeks before I was due to be flown back, the case collapsed. I had excellent lawyers, for once. If returned I would have been chained to a cell wall and not eligible for repatriation until the age of 76. Assuming I lived that long. Although I’ve faced execution a few times in my life, previously I’ve always had a B-plan; most reliably, escape. Here I was relying on lawyers and luck. Rarely a happy combination. What saved me in the end was time and politics. The Thai court’s warrant against me expired on 26 September 2016, and just a fortnight before, the Thais’ lawyer withdrew the request. Although Thailand agreed not to execute me, I would have been on death row for the rest of my life. They were keen, too. Usually, in extraditions, one never sees anyone from the requesting country as the holding country pays for the foreigners’ lawyers. In my case, at every hearing, a Miss Kittikat (or something like that; the Thai Attorney-General’s deputy) sat glaring at me, sometimes accompanied by Odd-Job’s twin brothers in black suits. I suspect Thailand didn’t really want me back in their prisons. The generals were happy to have won in the British courts – yet if I’d been taken back I would have been subject to the revenge of prison guards – some 11 had lost their jobs – and the world inside Thai jails is ruled by the staff, not the officials of the justice department. After the guarantees given to the UK government, it would be an embarrassment to find me dead in some cell within months. Now, the case is dead and can never haunt me in any jurisdiction again. But no one should ever say never. More on this and Unforgiving Destiny