Radical Islamist Abu Hamza al-Masri to be extradited to U.S.
LONDON (CNN) — The High Court in London ruled Friday that extremist Islamist cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri and four other men will be extradited to the United States to face terrorism charges, bringing to an end a years-long legal battle.
Judge John Thomas said there could be no appeal of the court’s decision.
The extradition of al-Masri and four other terror suspects to the United States “may proceed immediately,” he said.
The other four men are Khaled al-Fawwaz, Adel Abdul Bary, Babar Ahmad and Talha Ahsan.
Their lawyers had sought to persuade Thomas and a second senior judge to stay the extradition on medical and human rights grounds. It had already been approved by British courts, the European Court of Human Rights and Britain’s home secretary.
Thomas said the judges are satisfied that the European court had not fallen into error “and was justified in drawing the conclusion that it did.”
He said it is “unacceptable” that extradition proceedings should take so long. They should last “months, not years,” he said.
The legal process in the case of al-Fawwaz and Bary has lasted 14 years.
The ruling follows a three-day last-ditch hearing this week.
Lawyers for al-Masri told the court their client suffers from deteriorating mental health and was unfit to plead.
The charges against him include conspiracy in connection with a 1998 kidnapping of 16 Westerners in Yemen, and conspiring with others to establish an Islamic jihad training camp in rural Oregon in 1999. He could be sentenced to life in prison if convicted.
Al-Fawwaz and Bary are accused of being al Qaeda associates of Osama bin Laden in London during the 1990s.
Lawyers for al-Fawwaz presented evidence, including some arising from an interview by British intelligence officers with an al Qaeda informer, which they say discredits the case against him.
Presenting medical reports, lawyers for Bary said he had a deteriorating mental illness, making him unfit for detention in a high-security Supermax prison, where he is expected to be held if sent to the United States.
The cases of Babar Ahmad and Talha Ahsan are both linked to a website called azzam.com, which U.S. prosecutor’s say was run by the two men to support terrorism around the world.
Lawyers for Ahmad and Ahsan presented what they said was fresh evidence to support their calls for the two men to be charged with similar terrorism-supporting offenses in Britain, rather than have them face trial in the United States.
The U.S. and British governments were also represented during the hearings and strongly contested the five suspects’ submissions.
Lawyers for the British government described the arguments as an abuse of the legal process.
Al-Masri is one of the highest-profile radical Islamic figures in Britain, where he was already sentenced to seven years for inciting racial hatred at his north London mosque and other terrorism-related charges.
Born in Egypt in 1958, he traveled to Britain to study before gaining citizenship through marriage in the 1980s.
A one-time nightclub bouncer in London’s Soho district, al-Masri — also known as Mustafa Kamal Mustafa — has said he lost both hands and one eye while fighting against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. He often wore a hook in place of one hand.
In 1997, al-Masri became the imam of a north London mosque, where his hate-filled speeches attacking the West began to attract national attention and followers, including Richard Reid, the so-called “shoe bomber” who attempted to blow up a Miami-bound passenger airplane three months after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Al-Masri has called the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center “a towering day in history” and described bin Laden as “a good guy and a hero.”
He also described the Columbia space shuttle disaster in 2003 as “punishment from Allah” because the astronauts were Christian, Hindu and Jewish.
Al-Masri faces 11 charges in U.S. courts.