Britain is negligent in terror suspect's case,Italian authorities say

Farj Hassan Faraj, 24, was arrested in 2002 in Britain, where he had sought asylum. He served a prison sentence for possessing and handling a stolen British passport, and subsequently he was detained by immigration authorities.Britain's High Court approved his extradition in December, but it was up to Home Secretary Charles Clarke to give the final approval.

Italian authorities accused their British counterparts of delays. Massimo Meroni, the Milan prosecutor following Faraj's case, said that the extradition request fell through because British authorities "were completely negligent."

A spokeswoman for the Home office said the British government was "fully committed to completing extradition cases relating to terrorist offenses as quickly as possible."

She said the Faraj case was handled under old legislation that was "cumbersome" but had since been replaced with more streamlined procedures. She also pointed out that Italian law on custody time limits changed during the extradition request, meaning Faraj had been held longer than was allowed under Italian law.

Faraj was suspected of heading a group of five Tunisians who were accused in a trial earlier this year of helping plan terrorist attacks outside Italy and of recruiting militants to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan. The men were acquitted on the international terrorism charge, but convicted of lesser offenses. Faraj was not tried in that case.

The document, first sent by the Italians in 2003, advised Faraj that the investigation concerning him had been concluded, a necessary step to open a trial against him in Italy and extend jail time pending extradition. A.M.