November 22, 2001

U.S. Death Penalty Stops Spain Extraditing Suspects

MADRID (Reuters) -- Spain cannot extradite suspected Islamic extremists to the United States while the death penalty is in force there, judicial sources said on Thursday.

Eight suspected members of a radical Spanish Islamic group were detained in Spain last week, accused of involvement in the September 11 hijacked aircraft attacks on the United States.

High Court Judge Baltasar Garzon said in a committal order that the men, mostly Spanish citizens of Arab origin, had links to Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda group.

The United States accuses bin Laden of masterminding the attacks on New York and Washington that killed thousands.

The arrested men have denied the charges, judicial sources said.

At an informal meeting in Madrid on Wednesday involving a representative of the U.S. ambassador, two officials from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and two Spanish justice officials, the U.S. was told that extradition was not possible, the sources said.

``The U.S. officials came away from the meeting with the clear message that under Spanish law Spain could not extradite suspects to a country which enforces the death penalty,'' they said.

The death penalty was abolished in Spain with the introduction of the constitution in 1978 three years after the death of dictator General Francisco Franco.

A total of 85 people were executed in the U.S. last year and more than 60 have been executed so far this year, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Copyright 2001. Reuters. All rights reserved.

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