clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:


Drug agents jokingly refer to it as "Mexican extradition." Courts use the more dignified term, "informal rendition." Defense attorneys call it just plain kidnapping.

Whatever name you use, U.S. authorities flexing the long arm of their law have had several successes luring, spiriting or forcing criminal suspects out of seeming safe havens abroad into custody in America.It happened last year to an Arab who fell prey to an FBI ruse and ended up in custody to await trial in a 1985 Beirut plane hijacking; to Edwin Wilson, a former CIA agent accused of selling weapons to Libya, and to Dr. Timothy Leary, the drug cultists' icon of the 1960s who was tracked down in Afghanistan after escaping from a California jail.

The most recent example occurred Tuesday, when a month-long U.S.-Honduran operation led to the unwilling odyssey of alleged international cocaine czar Juan Ramon Matta Ballesteros from his home in Honduras to a jail in Illinois. One law enforcement official described Matta as being "stunned" to find himself in the United States, as the result of an operation apparently designed to get around Honduran law.

The United States has extradition treaties with more than 100 countries, but many nations like Honduras do not extradite their nationals. Even when they do, or if a U.S. citizen is involved, the legal proceedings are sometimes long and often fruitless.

Appeals courts, however, have upheld the prosecutions in most cases.