If you name a teddy bear Mohammed in Sudan, you face barbaric and draconian punishment. But if you avoid going to Sudan in the first place, which is a good idea, then you are at no risk of such lunacy.
America is different. Its laws are just as mad (under a system where your sentence is discounted by 90% for a guilty plea compared to a conviction, a fair trial is simply impossible), but you can’t escape them by not going there.
Even if your activities took place in the UK and didn’t affect any Americans, then the US claims jurisdiction – and our supine government and courts are happy to rubber-stamp your extradition [*].
The case of Gillian Gibbons is a sad reminder of why going to third-world hellholes and not paying attention to the locals’ crazy prejudices can be a bad idea. Ditto the next daft youth to be hanged in south-east Asia for trying to export a bit of Doherty-fuel.
None of the four actually did anything illegal in the first place (running a pro-Taliban website before 2001 was not illegal. And buying something from your boss for less money than you think it’s worth has never been), which is why they weren’t charged in the UK. Thankfully, we retain slightly more objectivity than the Americans when dealing with harmless financial shenanigans [**], and mildly more objectivity when dealing with Teh Evil Terrurists.
But that isn’t even the point. We shouldn’t be sending British people to America to face trial for actions which, if they are crimes, were committed in the UK. Ever. At all. Full stop. It’s an outrage to national sovereignty and natural justice. And if a political party (possibly aside from the BNP) commits in its manifesto to repealing the US extradition treaty, they’ve certainly got my vote…
[*] obviously, Americans accused of murdering unarmed foreign civilians are not extradited to the home country of those civilians, or the country where they are accused of committing the crime. Say what you like about the Yanks, at least they protect their citizens (from foreigners, if not from themselves)…
[**] blah blah pensions Enron ruined blah blah. The only people who lost non-trivial amounts of money in the Enron collapse were greedy orÃ‚Â stupid (holding large proportions of your wealth in a single, high-growthÃ‚Â stock is practically the definition of both). In any case, the NatWest guys’ contribution to the Enron collapse was zero – even if you think their actions were fraudulent, the only impact was to reduce RBS’s annual profit by an amount equivalent to two traders’ bonuses.