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Alleged arms dealer before US court

A retired British businessman extradited to the United States for alleged arms dealing is to make his first appearance in court.

Christopher Tappin, 65, who lost his two-year battle against extradition last week, landed in Houston, Texas, on Friday after flying in from Heathrow.

He will appear in court in El Paso and could face up to 35 years in jail if convicted of selling batteries for Iranian missiles.

Tappin's US lawyer Dan Cogdell has said he will "vigorously argue" for his client to be released on bail. He told the BBC: "There is no reasonable basis to believe that he is a flight risk or a danger. He is a respected businessman with no criminal record whatsoever."

Before being forced to leave Britain under the controversial UK-US treaty, Tappin said he had been failed by the Government, branding the decision to extradite him as a "disgrace".

He argued that the radical cleric Abu Qatada, who poses a threat to the UK's national security, had more rights than him after being allowed to stay in the UK. "I look to Mr Cameron (Prime Minister David Cameron) to look after my rights and he has failed to do so," he said.

"I have no rights. Abu Qatada is walking the streets of London and we cannot extradite him. He has more rights than I have. If I was a terrorist, I would not be going to America. I think it's a shame, a disgrace. The Conservative Government, while in opposition, promised to reform the law and they failed to do so and they've let me down, they've let you down, they've let the whole country down."

The Government has been blocked in its attempts to deport Qatada to Jordan, where he faces terror charges, after the European Court of Human Rights ruled that further assurances that evidence gained through torture would not be used against him were needed before he could be sent back. But the Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "They are completely different cases."

Tappin, from Orpington, south east London, denies attempting to sell batteries for surface-to-air missiles which were to be shipped from the US to Tehran via the Netherlands.

He has said that, for justice to be done, he should be tried by a jury of his peers in the UK, not a jury 3,000 miles away. But magistrates and the High Court backed his extradition and he exhausted his appeal options earlier this month when a last-ditch plea to human rights judges was rejected.

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