Attempted rapist wanted by FBI over mortgage fraud has extradition plea rejected
A prisoner in Scotland is set to face justice in the US after a court rejected his plea that extradition to his native Pakistan would put him at a “mortal risk”, The Herald reports.
Johar Javed Mirza, 35, who converted to Judaism, is serving a three year prison term for attempted rape of a student in the west end of Glasgow in 2010. He was convicted in 2014 and is due to be released no earlier than this May.
Mr Mirza, who is wanted by the FBI and is the subject of an Interpol Red Notice, is also known as “Jacob” and is appealing his conviction to the Supreme Court.
US authorities want him because of his alleged involvement in a mortgage scam that supposedly bagged Mr Mirza and his associates, among them his brother, $2.7 million between 2005 and 2008 in the state of Virginia.
He faces nine fraud charges for gaining commission from fraudulent mortgage brokering, leaving lenders out of pocket.
His brother, Gohar Mirza, pleaded guilty in the US and has been sentenced to five years in jail.
At Edinburgh Sheriff Court his claim his human rights would be threatened if sent to the US was rubbished. The case hinged on his status as a Jew which the Crown disputed and which has now been referred to the Scottish ministers who must decide whether to sign off on the extradition.
Mr Mirza claims he will be tortured or killed if deported to Pakistan via the US because he is Jewish.
However, Sheriff Thomas Welsh QC said his his judgment: “Mr Mirza recounted how he could not, as a Jewish convert, feel safe in Pakistan, if he were to be sent there after any proceedings in the USA, consequent upon extradition. He said he would be at mortal risk in Pakistan.
“He indicated he had been taught as a child that Jews and Christians were ‘the enemy’. His conversion to Judaism is widely known on his father’s side of the family and he would be at real risk of death from relations and others, if he returned to Pakistan.”
The court was told he rejected Islam after being sexually abused by an imam at a Lahore mosque and was attracted to Judaism as a teenager in the US.
He ultimately married a Muslim woman, a UK national, and settled in Glasgow in 2010 where he paid a Rabbi £3,000 to undergo conversion to Judaism.
The Crown has said the marriage was a sham and that his supposed conversion was “invented for no other reason than to dupe the court and avoid lawful extradition”.
Sheriff Welsh said he was “not presiding over a medieval auto-da-fé” and that Mr Mirza’s religion was not “relevant or material”.
He said: “Whether the respondent is Muslim or Jew he can only be extradited if extradition would be compatible with his Convention rights,” and said his lawyers had “offered not the smell of a petrol rag of evidence” that his rights were endangered.
Sheriff Welsh added it was not US policy to automatically deport people but that the reality was “more complex”.
He added, that, in any case, Mr Mirza “will have guaranteed legal representation and the protection of US constitutional rights including the right to silence, the right against self-incrimination and the right to a fair trial before an independent judge with the right to appeal”.