UK can send Islamist cleric to face U.S. trial (REUTERS) By Gilbert Reilhac STRASBOURG, France 04/10/12 12:57pm EDT)
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(Reuters) - Britain can extradite its most notorious Islamist cleric
to the United States to stand trial on charges that he supported al
Qaeda and aided a fatal kidnapping in Yemen, the European Court of
Human Rights ruled on Tuesday.
Egyptian-born Abu Hamza al-Masri, a one-eyed radical with a metal
hook for a hand who praised the September 11, 2001 attacks, faces a
sentence of over 100 years in high-security U.S. prisons if found
guilty, a step he said would contravene his human rights.
But the seven judges at the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human
Rights ruled unanimously that sending Hamza and four other suspects
to such "Supermax" penitentiaries would be lawful and that they would
not receive "inhuman and degrading treatment".
The court gave the suspects - including Babar Ahmad, Syed Tahla
Ahsan, Adel Abdul Bary and Khaled Al-Fawwaz - three months to appeal
against the ruling to a panel of five European judges.
The case, pitting the rights of men suspected of grave crimes against
the demands of the United States for justice, has electrified the
British media, which vilified Hamza as "the hook-handed hate
preacher" and agitated against hindrances to his extradition.
"Sling your hook," a frontpage headline in Britain´s best selling
newspaper, The Sun, once read, next to a picture of the preacher.
The Strasbourg court said U.S. authorities would however not allow
Hamza, who sports a metal hook after losing his hands in unclear
circumstances in Afghanistan, to serve his sentence in the Florence
Administrative Maximum Facility (ADX) prison in Colorado because of
Usually known for needling governments over human rights breaches,
the court ruled that incarceration in Florence ADX - known as
the "Alcatraz of the Rockies" and home to gang leaders, serial
killers and bombers - for the other suspects would not amount to ill-
Some of world´s most notorious convicts, including September 11
planner Zacarias Moussawi, al Qaeda "Shoebomber" Richard Reid and
Theodore Kaczynski, known as the "Unabomber", have been sent to the
The European court adjourned its ruling on a sixth suspect, Haroon
Rashid Aswat, pending a mental health report.
BRITAIN´S ISLAMIST CLERIC
A former preacher at the Finsbury Park Mosque in north London, Hamza
is viewed as one of the most radical Islamists in Britain, a country
he has attacked for its support of U.S.-led wars in Iraq and
At the red-brick mosque, dozens of worshippers streaming in for
prayers were reluctant to talk about Hamza.
"People who are not Muslims think anyone who came into the mosque
were extremists," Youba Sidali, a 30-year-old from Algeria, told
Reuters below the white minaret. "I think Abu Hamza doesn´t represent
Hamza was jailed for seven years in 2006 for inciting murder and
racial hatred and for possessing literature such as the Al Qaeda
Handbook, a manual on how to wage war against governments and replace
them with Muslim ones.
Hamza - real name Mustafa Kamal Mustafa - was indicted by a federal
grand jury in new York in April 2004. He was accused of involvement
in a 1998 hostage taking in Yemen which resulted in the deaths of
four hostages - three Britons and one Australian.
He was also accused of providing material support to al Qaeda by
trying to set up a training camp for fighters in the Pacific state of
Oregon and of trying to organize support for the Taliban in
The U.S. Justice department welcomed the European court´s decision in
the cases of Hamza and the other four suspects.
"We look forward to the court´s decision becoming final and to the
extradition of these defendants to stand trial in the United States,"
spokesman Dean Boyd said. "With respect to defendant Haroon Rashid
Aswat, U.S. officials will consult with the United Kingdom´s Home
Office about the additional submission requested."
British Prime Minister David Cameron, who visited President Barack
Obama in Washington last month, said he was pleased with the decision
but frustrated with the time it took to approve the extradition.
"I´m very pleased with this news," Cameron said. "It´s quite right
that we have a proper legal process although sometimes you can be
frustrated by how long this takes."
To the fury of many members of Cameron´s Conservative party, Britain
was forced to free another radical cleric, Abu Qatada, from prison in
February to live under virtual house arrest after the European Court
of Human Rights ruled his detention without trial was unlawful.
(Writing by Guy Faulconbridge and Peter Griffiths; Additional
reporting Yeganeh Torbati; Editing by Giles Elgood) (© Thomson
Reuters 2012. 04/10/12)
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