Brits upset over student's extradition to U.S. on piracy charges

Paula Duffy's picture

When a British student was told he would be extradited to the U.S. to face federal criminal charges, the dissatisfaction in Britain got serious.

The British Home Secretary did not stop the extradition process for Richard O’Dwyer, who is sought in the U.S. for operating a website that provided links to other sites featuring pirated films and television shows.

Mr. O'Dwyer's next move is expected to be filing an appeal to the High Court and eventually to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

Under the language of a 2004 treaty between the United States and Great Britain, approved during the term of Prime Minister Tony Blair, suspects may be sent across the Atlantic without the necessity of the U.S. showing that the offense complained of is also illegal in Great Britain, according to the UK Telegraph.

Mr. O'Dwyer, 23 is accused of operating the website TVShack from 2007 through November 2010. He was arrested in 2011 and released on bail to return to his student quarters while pursuing a computer science degree.

O'Dwyer's defense was purported to hinge on the ruling of another case involving a site that was accused of copyright infringement using the same business model as O'Dwyer. The charges were dismissed under British law. O'Dwyer is said to have earned more than $200,000 during the time the site was operational.

It didn't work for the student from Sheffield Hallam University, after the judge decided against defense claims O'Dwyer would not get a fair trial in the United States, that his alleged conduct was not an offense under British law, and that if a crime was committed he should be prosecuted at home.

It is the second headline-making incident in the past month surrounding extradition to the U.S. A British businessman, Christopher Tappin lost all his appeals and was flown to the United States to face charges that he conspired to export defense technology to Iran that could be used in the shooting down of planes.

It was front page news in Britain when Tappin boarded the airplane for America and when he was put in handcuffs and quartered in a New Mexico prison as a judge had trouble deciding if he was a flight risk.

The treaty and its effects were used to try and embarrass Prime Minister Cameron prior to his arrival in the U.S. this week and President Obama had to field a question about the O'Dwyer case as well.

The objections and protests about the treaty's provisions center on its purpose to serve as a counter-terrorism tool in the ongoing hunt for terrorists. The UK press quoted Mr. Cameron as saying he is "not sympathetic" to the plight of Mr. Tappin and had no intention of discussing the subject with the President during his state visit. Image: Wikimedia Commons

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