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U.S. refuses to return diplomat's wife to Britain over traffic death

U.S. refuses to return diplomat's wife to Britain over traffic death
The family of Harry Dunn departs the Foreign Office on October 9, 2019, after a meeting with British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab to discuss a vehicular death case against the wife of a U.S. diplomat. File Photo by Andy Rain/EPA-EFE

Jan. 24 (UPI) -- The U.S. government says it won't send the wife of an American diplomat to Britain to face charges in the death of a man she hit in a traffic accident last year -- arguing that doing so could set a dangerous precedent.

Authorities say Anne Sacoolas struck 19-year-old Harry Dunn while she was driving on the wrong side of the road in Northamptonshire last August. British officials and Dunn's family have been seeking her extradition since.

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Thursday, the U.S. State Department refused to return Sacoolas.

"If the United States were to grant [Britain's] extradition request, it would render the invocation of diplomatic immunity a practical nullity and would set an extraordinarily troubling precedent," a department spokesman said.

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"The United States has a history of close law enforcement cooperation with the United Kingdom, and we value that relationship. The United States government again expresses its sincere condolences and sympathy to the Dunn family for the loss of their son."

British foreign secretary Dominic Raab, who'd spoken to U.S. Ambassador Woody Johnson about the matter, said the U.S. response is disappointing and called it a "denial of justice."

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Charlotte Charles, Dunn's mother, said said she will keep fighting to have Sacoolas returned to face a charge of causing death by dangerous driving.

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"We have just got to carry on fighting and we will get there in the end," she said. "We had prepared ourselves for this. We have just got to carry on fighting and we will get there in the end.

"It doesn't matter when, whether it's this administration or the next. The extradition request is always going to be over Anna Sacoolas's head, and we're never going to give up."

The U.S. government had previously refused to extradite Sacoolas, 42, who is the wife of a diplomat stationed at Royal Air Force base Croughton. If convicted, she would face up to 14 years in prison.

"[The penalty] is simply not a proportionate response," Sacoolas attorney Amy Jeffress said previously. "We have been in contact with the U.K. authorities about ways in which Anne could assist with preventing accidents like this from happening in the future, as well as her desire to honor Harry's memory."

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