Court says radical cleric, 4 others can be extradited from Britain to stand trial on terror charges in U.S.
LONDON — Radical preacher Abu Hamza Masri and four other terror suspects who have fought for years to avoid charges in the United States have no more grounds for appeal and can be extradited from Britain immediately, Britain's High Court ruled on Friday.
The U.S. Embassy said it was pleased with the decision. A Department of Justice-owned civilian Gulfstream jet had been on the tarmac at a Royal Air Force base since Tuesday, ready to take them into custody in the United States.
The BBC reported that its correspondent saw a police convoy carrying Masri leave the Long Lartin Prison in central England. The convoy arrived at an air force base in eastern England.
Besides Masri, Judges John Thomas and Duncan Ouseley approved the extradition of four other terrorism suspects, including two accused of involvement in the deadly 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.Khaled al-Fawwaz, Babar Ahmad, Adel Abdul Bary and Syed Talha Ahsan have been battling extradition for between eight and 14 years.
Thomas said there were no grounds for any further delay, noting that it was “in the interest of justice that those accused of very serious crimes, as each of these claimants is in these proceedings, are tried as quickly as possible as is consistent with the interests of justice.”
The five have sought to avoid extradition by raising concerns about human rights and the conditions they would endure in a U.S. prison. Both British and European courts have ruled that they can be extradited, but they sought last-minute injunctions from the High Court.
The United States wants Masri to stand trial on allegations that he tried to establish a camp in Oregon to train recruits for the Afghan insurgency, and that he participated in the kidnapping of Western tourists in Yemen.
Ahmad and Ahsan are wanted in Connecticut relating to websites that allegedly sought to raise cash, recruit fighters and seek equipment for terrorists in Afghanistan and Chechnya.
Bary and al-Fawwaz were indicted with others, including Osama bin Laden, for their alleged roles in the bombings of two U.S. embassies in east Africa in 1998. Al-Fawwaz faces more than 269 counts of murder.
Lawyers for Masri, who was in a British jail since 2004 for inciting racial hatred and encouraging followers to kill non-Muslims, argued in court that his deteriorating physical and mental health meant it would be “oppressive” to send him to a U.S. prison. They said he suffers from depression, chronic sleep deprivation and diabetes.
The judges concluded that “there is nothing to suggest that extradition in this case would be unjust or oppressive.”
Before Friday's ruling, a small group of Islamist protesters gathered outside the court to denounce the planned extraditions.