LONDON – British Home Secretary Theresa May has hailed the European Court of
Human Rights ruling that Britain can send a radical Muslim cleric and four other
suspects to the United States to face terrorism charges as “a very important
The court, based in Strasbourg, France, issued its ruling
Tuesday, saying that Britain would not violate EU human rights laws by
extraditing the suspects, who could face life sentences in a US maximum-security
“These individuals have been accused of some very significant
crimes,” she said. “Every court in the UK felt it was right that they should be
May vowed to work to ensure that the suspects are handed
over to the US authorities as quickly as possible.
British Prime Minister
David Cameron said: “I am very pleased with this news. It’s quite right that we
have a proper legal process, although sometimes you can be frustrated by how
long things take.”
The long-running legal battle, which has lasted around
eight years and cost over £4million, centered on Mustafa Kamal Mustafa, also
known as Abu Hamza, an Egyptian-born cleric who was convicted in the UK in 2006
of race hate and incitement to murder, and sentenced to a seven-year prison
He was the imam of the Finsbury Park Mosque in north London, which
al-Qaida terrorists, including “shoe-bomber” Richard Reid and Zacarias
Moussaoui, known as the 20th 9/11 hijacker, both attended.
On the first
anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, Abu Hamza co-organized a conference at the
mosque praising the hijackers.
The UK Charity Commission suspended him
from his position in 2003, but he continued to preach to his supporters outside
the mosque’s gates until he was arrested a year later.
radical preacher lost both his arms and use of an eye in Afghanistan in the
1990s and publicly expressed support for al-Qaida and Osama bin Laden.
his trial in 2006, Abu Hamza said the British Foreign Office and the media were
“controlled by Jews” and that Jews in the UK and the US “controlled the money
He accused the Jewish people of being “blasphemous, treacherous
and dirty” and explained that this was “why Hitler was sent into the
He also called for a world dominated by a caliph sitting in the
Abu Hamza and the other suspects have three months to
appeal. They must persuade the grand chamber of the European Court of Human
Rights to overturn the verdict, or grant them a stay of execution which could
last for months, while an appeal is heard.
A representative of the
American Justice Department said, “We look forward to the court’s decision
becoming final and to the extradition of these defendants to stand trial
In 2004, Washington named Abu Hamza as a “terrorist facilitator
with a global reach” and he was arrested pending extradition.
wants to try him on charges of conspiring to take 16 Western hostages in Yemen,
organizing a “terrorist training camp” in Oregon between 1998 and 2000, and
funding terrorism by providing support to al-Qaida and the Taliban.
Hamza and the other suspects had argued that they could face prison conditions
and jail terms in the US that would expose them to “torture or inhuman or
degrading treatment or punishment” – claiming it was in breach of European human
Based on the charges filed in the US, the suspects could get
lifelong jail terms without parole in maximum security conditions, such as cells
with concrete furniture, timed showers and no outside communications.
various challenges against their extradition rested on the suspects’ likely
detention in the ADX Florence “Supermax” prison in Florence, Colorado, where
they would be held in solitary confinement.
In their ruling, the judges
found that conditions at ADX would not amount to ill-treatment.
politicians and political groups used the cases to highlight what they deemed
failings in the UK legal system for taking so many years to clear up questions
Keith Vaz, chairman of the Commons Home Affairs Select
Committee, said the ruling underscored “the disarray of extradition and removals
in the UK and pointed to the need to ensure the important cases are
“Babar Ahmad alone has waited eight years for a decision on
his case, this delay is unacceptable,” he said, referring to another suspect
accused of laundering money and running pro-Taliban websites to raise money,
appeal for fighters and provide equipment for terrorists.
Douglas Carswell said, “If the French government can stick troublemakers on a
plane and kick them out within 48 hours then we ought to be able to do the
“This is entirely a question of will within Whitehall and if
officials put as much effort into removing him as telling us we need [railway
upgrade] High Speed 2 he would be out of the country by the
Another Conservative MP, Chris Heaton-Harris, said: “I think
there are plenty of examples that prove that there is very urgent reform
required of the European Court of Human Rights.”
Syed Talha Ahsan,
another suspect set to be extradited to the US include, has been charged with
conspiring to kill and support terrorists via the Internet. He studied at London
University’s School of Oriental and African Studies.
Khalid al-Fawwaz, a
Saudi citizen, and Adel Abdul Bary, an Egyptian, are wanted over the 1998
bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 people. Al-
Fawwaz, allegedly Osama bin Laden’s representative in Britain, has been charged
with more than 269 counts of counts of murder.
The court rejected those
claims, saying in its ruling Tuesday stating that “detention conditions and
length of sentences of five alleged terrorists would not amount to ill-treatment
if they were extradited to the US.”
However, the court said the five
“should not be extradited” until its judgment becomes final – a move that could
take months – or until a possible appeals process ends.
It also put off
ruling on the case of a sixth suspect, Haroon Rashid Aswat, wanted by US
prosecutors on charges that he tried to set up terrorist camps with Abu Hamza in
The court said it requires further information requires his
The decision comes at a sensitive time following a setback
to British extradition policy in February when the European court ruled that the
UK could not deport another radical cleric, Abu Qatada, said to have been Osama
bin Laden’s right-hand man in Europe, to Jordan.