'Relieved' Tappin free on US bail

Herald Series: Christopher Tappin was released from Otero County detention centre in New Mexico Christopher Tappin was released from Otero County detention centre in New Mexico

A retired British businessman who was extradited to the United States over arms dealing charges has been freed on bail, a family spokeswoman said.

Christopher Tappin, who faces up to 35 years in jail if convicted, was released from Otero County detention centre in New Mexico after his family paid 50,000 dollars (£31,026) of a one million-dollar (£620,527) bond.

A family spokeswoman said the 65-year-old former president of the Kent Golf Union was released on Wednesday and his family was planning to visit him in Texas, where he must stay, as soon as possible.

Speaking on Monday night when a judge set the terms of his release, Tappin's wife Elaine said she was relieved and "grateful for the judge's humanity". Mrs Tappin, 62, of Orpington, Kent, said her husband had been "unnecessarily locked up" for more than eight weeks and "abandoned by the authorities in his own country".

Tappin, who denies trying to sell batteries for surface-to-air missiles to Iran, faces trial in El Paso, Texas.

His case has fuelled the row over the fairness of the extradition treaty between the UK and the US. Attorney General Dominic Grieve QC said Tappin's extradition highlighted problems with the treaty which were not "readily curable", warning that many Britons were left uneasy when faced with the seemingly harsh and disproportionate sentences in the American justice system.

Other critics of the 2003 treaty, including Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, have described it as "one-sided", but an independent review by retired Court of Appeal judge Sir Scott Baker last year found it was balanced and fair.

Tappin's extradition follows an investigation which started in 2005 when US agents asked technology providers about buyers who might have raised red flags. Those customers were then approached by undercover companies set up by government agencies.

Mrs Tappin, speaking at the family home in Orpington, Kent, said her brain was "mush" after all the drama of the last few months. She said: "All I know is what everybody has seen on the television this morning. I haven't spoken to my husband yet but am hoping to later on today. My brain is mush at the moment."

Asked when she would be going to America to visit him, she added: "I don't know because I haven't spoken to my husband yet."

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