A man wanted by authorities in the United States of America to face bomb threat charges will not be extradited because of his failing health, a court has ruled.
Prosecutors in the US wanted “tartan terrorist”, referred to as “SN” arrested and extradited to America to face trial over allegations that he made more than 40 bomb threats in 2012 to various institutions, including the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania and the Pittsburgh Federal Court House.
However, a sheriff ruled that it would be “unjust and oppressive” to extradite the 71-year-old founder of the Scottish National Liberation Army due to his “poor and precarious” health.
Unfit to stand trial
Sheriff Frank Crowe at Edinburgh Sheriff Court heard that SN had been extradited from Ireland under a European Arrest Warrant in 2015 in respect of contraventions of the section 114 of the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 and section 51 of the Criminal Law Act 1977 over hoaxes involving noxious substances and bomb threats, but subsequently was considered to be unfit to stand trial here in terms of Part VI of the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995, which deals with the criminal responsibility of “mentally disturbed persons”.
The court was told that, having been remanded in custody on his return from Ireland, SN went on a 90-day hunger strike which led to him being admitted to hospital.
Medical reports attached to the extradition request signed by the US Attorney General revealed that SN had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2009 and Crown Counsel took the decision to abandon the case against him after he was pronounced by psychiatrists to be unfit for trial in 2015.
A CT scan also showed frontal dementia with cognitive impairment due to Korsakoff’s psychosis.
He presented as elderly, confused and disorientated as to time and place – he still believed he was in Ireland and said he had been born in 1792 – and did not understand the charges, nor could he name his lawyer.
SN, who was being administered nine different medications each day, was assessed as not being able to cope within a prison environment and a medium security psychiatric placement was not thought appropriate as he showed no signs of dangerous behaviour.
He was currently residing in a care home, where he was described as being the “most dependent patient”, as he required full nursing care and assistance for all activities of daily living.
In terms of the Extradition Act 2003 proceedings begin when the Minister issues a certificate confirming that a valid request has been received.
In the normal case court proceedings follow the grant of an arrest warrant and the judge decides whether there are any bar to extradition, and if there are none the Minister has to decide whether extradition should take place, which decision may be appealed.
The medical reports suggested that if SN could be prevented from going on hunger strike again his condition might improve, but the reports also stated that his cognitive functioning was impaired to a “significant level” and his health had “deteriorated” over the last two years.
He was unfit for trial in 2015, was not fit to travel to the US now nor was he fit to engage in a criminal trial, the sheriff said.
Helen Knipe on behalf of the Lord Advocate advised the court that she had received assurances through diplomatic channels that should SN be extradited but found unfit to stand trial he would be returned to the UK provided that certain conditions were met.
However, the sheriff noted that SN’s lawyer Paul Reid could argue that extradition would be “oppressive” on human rights grounds and due to his physical and mental condition.
Unjust and oppressive to extradite
Following an extradition hearing in SN’s absence at Edinburgh Sheriff Court, the sheriff ruled that he should not be extradited.
In a written judgment, Sheriff Crowe said: “The circumstances are exceptional and the proposed proceedings relate to an individual who has been well known to the criminal authorities in this jurisdiction for many years.
“SN suffers from a degenerative condition for which there is no cure. He was diagnosed with the condition in 2009, was assessed as being unfit for court proceedings by various medical practitioners in 2015 since when there has been a further deterioration in SN’s condition and powers of communication.
“To have granted the warrant would simply have been to authorise a charade, well knowing in light of the unchallenged reports produced to me that his condition is such that it would be unjust and oppressive to extradite him in view of his physical and mental condition.
“Accordingly I have exercised my discretion not to issue a warrant for the arrest of SN. It is quite clear that seeking to issue a warrant in the present circumstances, given SN’s poor and precarious health, would place those seeking to enforce such a warrant in an invidious, impractical and frankly impossible position.
“The assurances given by the Requesting Authority are quite proper in the circumstances but it is seems clear a similar finding of unfitness inevitably would be made, were it possible and practicable to arrange the transfer of SN to the United States of America. It follows that SN is discharged from this process.”
SN, of Paisley, Renfrewshire, fled from Scotland to Ireland in 1980 after orchestrating a series of minor terror attacks in Scotland against military sites, oil companies and high-profile public figures using primitive letter bombs.
He was was jailed for four years in 2010 by an Irish court for sending emails claiming flights from London to New York City had explosives on board.
He was due to face terror charges in 2015 at the High Court in Glasgow for making hoax bomb threats and threatening to poison water supplies but was ruled unfit to stand trial.