Dear Sir, So Phony Tony can do no more to protect British citizens imprisoned abroad than delay things while lawyers talk. British citizens Feroz Abbasi and Moazzam Begg are imprisoned under strict, secretive and almost wholly illegal terms. They face the death penalty in a kangaroo court, whose officers, including the “defence” have been appointed by the prosecuting country. They do, however, have the option of pleabargaining (naming names) if they don't wish to be executed by fiat of George W. Bush, who presided over 140 executions (mostly of blacks) while Governor of Texas. In 1850, Lord Palmerston, who was made of sterner stuff, sent the Mediterranean Fleet to blockade Greece, when a British citizen, Don Pacifico, was only having problems obtaining compensation for damage during a riot. Palmerston asked the Commons to decide, “whether... a British subject, in whatever land he may be, shall feel confident that the watchful eye and the strong arm of England will protect him against injustice and wrong”. Of course, British citizens Feroz Abbasi and Moazzam Begg may not really be English (although they may well play cricket a lot better than I do). Nor was Don Pacifico. He was a Moorish Jew born in Gibraltar. When he called for Palmerston's very effective help he was a Portuguese living in Athens. That didn't stop Palmerston, who was nobody's poodle. Abbasi and Begg have been held as “terrorists”, incommunicado, except for “discussions” with CIA and MI6 officers, for some 18 months, along with some 650 others, including boys under 16 years old, and some in their 70s. Their prison is a US base in the heart of a country that has been a prime US “enemy target” for 40 years or more. Last week, in Blair's presence, Dubya said the prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay were “bad people”. He added: “Let me just say, these were illegal combatants. They were picked up off the battlefield aiding and abetting the Taliban.” So was John Walker Lindh, the “American Taliban”. His full story is told in a New Yorker article. It's a good read, if you are at all interested in derring–do, idealism (misplaced or not), and how the US justice system can drop 9 out of 10 charges and let an “unpatriotic” American cop a plea bargain (20 years in medium security in California, John Lindh's home state). But John Lindh was an All–American white. Feroz Abbasi and Moazzam Begg come from those obscure little parts of Britain where the BNP is winning council seats. Maybe a few of us remember how difficult it was for the UK to extradite Irish terrorists from the US when NORAID was a jolly Boston charity.
In a ideal world, David Blunkett could be preparing suitable accommodation for American “illegal combatants, war criminals”, etc, (there must be some). The Falklands might do. Such Americans might have been indicted by the International Criminal Court, but the US is bribing everyone to disown it (so far as Americans are concerned) and Blunkett has just given away a one way extradition treaty. And Phony Tony might defend British citizens abroad instead of allowing a Parliamentary witness to be hounded to death after giving, maybe, a few unwise but true facts in the “Case of Tony's Flack”.

Richard Parker
Puerto Pollensa