UK court: Cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri can be deported to US to face terror charges

Al-Masri is wanted by the US on charges of conspiring to take Western hostages, organizing a "terrorist training camp" in Oregon, and providing support to al-Qaida and the Taliban.

al-masri 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
al-masri 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
A British court ruled on Thursday that Sunni cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri may be extradited to the US to face terrorism charges. The decision of the City of Westminster Magistrate's Court must now be ratified by Home Secretary Jacqui Smith. The Egyptian-born cleric was convicted in 2006 of race hate and incitement to murder, and is currently serving a seven-year prison term. "The defendant is currently serving a sentence of imprisonment in the United Kingdom, but subject to any representations from counsel, I propose to send the matter to the secretary of state for his decision on whether the defendant should be extradited to America," Senior District Judge Timothy Workman said. Defense lawyer Alun Jones immediately announced that he would urge the Home Office and the attorney-general the case be prosecuted in the UK. At his trial in 2006, Abu Hamza said the Foreign Office and the media were "controlled by Jews" and that Jews in the UK and the US "controlled money supply." He told the court he "did not believe" in the State of Israel "because it means state of my death - Holocaust." He accused the Jewish people of being "blasphemous, treacherous and dirty" and explained that this was "why Hitler was sent into the world." He also called for a world dominated by a caliph sitting in the White House. Jon Benjamin, chief executive of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, told The Jerusalem Post: "It is clearly right and proper that Abu Hamza faces the consequences of his activities not only in the UK but in other jurisdictions where he is suspected of having committed offences." Abu Hamza, who lost both his arms and use of his left eye in Afghanistan in the 1990s, has publicly expressed support for al-Qaida and Osama bin Laden and applauded the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. 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. He was suspended from his position in 2003 by the UK Charity Commission, but continued to preach to his supporters outside the mosque's gates until he was arrested a year later. In 2004, Washington named Abu Hamza as a "terrorist facilitator with a global reach" and he was arrested pending extradition. The US government 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. The 11 charges carry a potential sentence of 100 years.