Britain accused of trying to 'entrap' Mongolian official

15th November 2010, Comments 0 comments

A lawyer for a top Mongolian official arrested in London accused British authorities Monday of trying to "entrap" his client by inviting him to visit the country only to detain him for alleged kidnap.

Bat Khurts, 41, a key figure in Mongolia's National Security Council, was arrested on a German warrant as he flew into London's Heathrow airport on September 17, for allegedly kidnapping a Mongolian murder suspect in 2003.

At an extradition hearing in London on Monday, defence lawyer Alan Jones accused Britain of an "abuse of process", saying government and judicial officials had worked together to "entrap" Khurts.

Jones also argued that his client should have benefited from diplomatic immunity because he was travelling on official business.

He said Britain granted Khurts a visa and "encouraged" him to visit London in a series of diplomatic meetings here and in Mongolia, "while secretly planning to have him arrested on behalf of the German issuing authority".

"That is a completely inappropriate way to conduct relations with a foreign friendly government," the lawyer told Westminster Magistrates' Court.

He added: "The prime minister of Mongolia is coming to the UK in a couple of weeks, we just have to hope he won't have his collar felt."

Wearing blue jeans and a navy blue sports jacket, Khurts -- who remains in custody -- followed the proceedings through an interpreter but did not speak.

In a statement read out along with other documents in court, he confirmed that he was the head of the executive office of Mongolia's National Security Council, which he described as "effectively the absolute power in Mongolia".

He said he worked "very closely" with foreign intelligence agencies and was keen to share knowledge with Britain.

To this end, British and Mongolian officials in London and Ulan Bator began discussing in November 2009 the possibility of a visit by a Mongolian official to London, according to other documents.

The Foreign Office has denied any formal meetings were arranged for Khurts' seven-day trip.

However, the Mongolian ambassador to London, Bulgaa Altangerel, told the court it was "very normal" for visiting officials not to have formal written invitations and that should not be taken as a sign that Khurts was not welcome.

According to a document written by an official in Britain's Serious and Organised Crime Agency, the agency was alerted to Khurts' arrival and flight details by the Foreign Office.

The German warrant alleges that Khurts was a member of a snatch squad which kidnapped and drugged Mongolian refugee Damiran Enkhbat, wanted for the assassination of a Mongolian minister, in France in May 2003.

According to media reports, it claims that Khurts drove a car carrying Enkhbat to the Mongolian consulate in Brussels and then to Germany, where he was put on a flight to Ulan Bator.

The case was adjourned until January 5 and Khurts will remain in custody until then after being refused bail earlier this month. His wife, who is due to give birth in January, has been refused a visa to visit him, the court heard.

Representatives of the Mongolian government, some of whom were in court, were due to hold talks with senior Foreign Office officials in London later Monday, a Foreign Office spokesman told AFP, without giving further details.

He added that the decision to arrest Khurts was made by Britain's judicial authorities "who are wholly independent of government".

"The arrest in no way amounts to a diplomatic or political statement by the British government... His extradition is now before the courts and it would be inappropriate for us to offer further comment at this stage," he said.

© 2010 AFP

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