By Jerome A. Cohen
A very good report by Raphael Minder in today’s NY Times about a Madrid court decision rejecting the U.S. request to extradite the former Venezuelan intelligence chief, politician and alleged drug runner Hugo Carvajal. The defense claimed that the U.S. request was made for a spurious purpose, using drugs as an excuse to get its hands on the suspect for political purposes involving U.S. policy towards Venezuela.
Minder correctly points out the relevance of this international precedent to the Meng Wanzhou court battle coming up in Vancouver. Meng’s lawyers must be very happy. Of course, the United States may appeal the Madrid decision. The amount of time that a suspect subject to extradition proceedings is restrained is a disturbing aspect of the process. Carvajal was locked up for six months pending this initial decision. Fortunately, the judge has released him from prison pending appeal but subject to remaining in Spain and biweekly reporting to the government. Carvajal, who sounds like a serious drug offender from the U.S. charges, has a great Reuters family photo in the Times that would support a political campaign back home.
Although Ms. Meng has been quite free and comfortable on high bail from the start of the Vancouver legal process, she has not been free to leave Canada to pursue her business and life. She must work via the Internet and other communications facilities, which presumably are monitored. The Canadian process is moving very deliberately and the final extradition decision remains a long way off. If extradited, she faces another long criminal process in the United States unless a plea agreement is negotiated, perhaps as part of a broader Huawei settlement or an even broader US-PRC trade agreement. But don’t hold your breath!
Why people subject to the possibility of US extradition continue to take the chance of passing through countries that have extradition arrangements with the United States remains a mystery to me, even though avoiding all such countries is a significant inhibition on their travels.