America yesterday expressed fury that the Home Office has not handed over Dr Bashir Nafi, the British academic charged with racketeering and conspiracy to commit acts of terrorism for a Palestinian group.
An official in the US Department of Justice said: "I thought the Brits were on our side in the war against terrorism. But when something like this happens, you wonder."
The official said the Department had requested that Dr Nafi, a London University lecturer, be extradited for trial in the US more than two weeks ago.
The Home Office denied that it had been obstructive or failed to act on a US request to extradite Dr Bashir.
"We have received no arrest warrant from the US and no extradition request," a spokesman said. "It is up to the country that wants to talk to a suspect to start legal proceedings. If an arrest warrant was to be received, we would act upon it. We have the closest relationship with the US."
The Home Office spokesman did not deny, however, that Britain had known about the allegations against Dr Nafi for some time. He said that Dr Nafi could not be arrested under English law because "he has not broken the law in this country".
Dr Nafi, 50, who is originally from Egypt and holds Egyptian and Irish passports, insists that he is "totally innocent", and that the case against him is "a witch-hunt".
According to the US indictment, however, he has a serious case to answer. Charges against Dr Nafi, who lectures on Islamic history at Birkbeck College, include "conspiracy to murder, maim or injure persons outside the United States".
US authorities allegedly have transcripts of Dr Nafi's telephone conversations and facsimile communications with Sammi al-Arian, an American professor who has helped to organise the finances of Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), from Tampa, Florida.
According to the affidavit, Dr Nafi's conversations with Mr al-Arian suggest that they are both among the leaders of the PIJ. Until recently, the PIJ's website listed the suicide bombings and other murders that it had committed in Israel.
Those bombings include a suicide bombing that killed nine people on April 4, 1994, and another which murdered 22 people on January 22, 1995. The PIJ's manifesto states that one of its goals is to create "terror, instability and panic". Other aims include the destruction of the state of Israel and the rejection of any form of peaceful co-existence.
In the conversations referred to in the indictment, Dr Nafi allegedly discusses the PIJ's finances, its organisation, and the need to move money to England in order to support the PIJ's operatives in this country.
Some of these operatives felt they were so badly paid that they would be "better off with Hamas", the militant Islamic group responsible for many of the suicide bombings in Israel and the Occupied Territories.
Dr Nafi said last week that he was "just an academic" and "absolutely shocked to hear these allegations".
This is the first case in which racketeering and conspiracy laws have been used against people accused of involvement with terrorist organisations. "We're going after the terrorists in the way we went after the Mafia godfathers like John Gotti," an FBI officer told The Telegraph.
He added that "another new feature of this case is the use of wire-tap evidence", allowed following the Patriot Act and a recent judicial ruling. "I think it will be very hard for those indicted in this case to escape justice - providing that we can get all of them to a US court."