Hamza finally on way to US as May gives extradition go-ahead

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Home Secretary Theresa May was given the go-ahead yesterday for the immediate extradition of radical cleric Abu Hamza to the US.

Two High Court judges in London also rejected last-ditch challenges by four other terror suspects against removal from the UK.

Dismissing their actions in a ruling lasting more than two hours, Sir John Thomas, president of the Queen’s Bench Division, announced that their “extradition to the United States of America may proceed immediately”.

Sir John and Mr Justice Ouseley “released” Mrs May from undertakings she had given pending yesterday’s judgment not to extradite.

After the decisions were given, the Home Office said Hamza and the others would be extradited to the US “as quickly as possible”.

A Home Office spokesman said: “We welcome the High Court decision on Abu Hamza and others. We are now working to extradite these men as quickly as possible.”

The judges rejected an application by 54-year-old Hamza, a former imam at Finsbury Park mosque in north London, to be given time to undergo a brain scan his lawyers said could show he is medically unfit to face trial.

They also threw out challenges by Babar Ahmad, Syed Ahsan, Khaled Al-Fawwaz and Adel Abdul Bary.

All five cases returned to the High Court after judges at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) refused to intervene and stop the Home Secretary extraditing them.

Welcoming the decision, a US Embassy spokeswoman said: “These individuals are being transferred to the United States.

“These extraditions mark the end of a lengthy process of litigation through the UK courts and the ECHR.

“The US government agrees with the ECHR’s findings that the conditions of confinement in US prisons – including in maximum security facilities – do not violate European standards.

“In fact, the court found that services and activities provided in US prisons surpass what is available in most European prisons.

“The law enforcement relationship between the United States and United Kingdom is predicated on trust, respect, and the common goals of protecting our nations and eliminating safe havens for criminals, including terrorists.”

Between 1999 and 2006, the men were indicted on various terrorism charges in America.

Hamza, who was jailed in the UK for seven years for soliciting to murder and inciting racial hatred in 2006, first faced an extradition request from the Americans in 2004.

He has been charged with 11 counts of criminal conduct related to the taking of 16 hostages in Yemen in 1998, advocating violent jihad in Afghanistan in 2001, and conspiring to establish a jihad training camp in Bly, Oregon, between June 2000 and December 2001.

Ahmad, a computer expert from south London, and Ahsan are accused of offences including using a website to provide support to terrorists and conspiracy to kill, kidnap, maim or injure persons or damage property in a foreign country.

They wanted their removal stopped so they could challenge a decision by the Director of Public Prosecutions not to allow British businessman Karl Watkin, a campaigner against the UK’s extradition arrangements with the United States, to bring prosecutions against them in the UK.

Bary and Al-Fawwaz were indicted – with Osama bin Laden and 20 others – for their alleged involvement in, or support for, the bombing of US embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam in 1998.

Sir John said there was an “overwhelming public interest in the proper functioning of the extradition arrangements and the honouring of extradition treaties”.

He added: “It is also 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 judge said: “It is unacceptable that extradition proceedings should take more than a relatively short time, to be measured in months not years.

“It is not just to anyone that proceedings such as these should last between 14 and eight years.”

After the ruling, Ahmad said he would be extradited to the US to face terror charges “with his head held high”. Computer expert Ahmad, who has been in jail without trial since 2004 while fighting extradition, is accused of being involved in a website which encouraged terrorism and which, while operated from London, was hosted in the US.

In a statement, Ahmad who has pleaded to be charged and tried in Britain, said: “By exposing the fallacy of the UK’s extradition arrangements with the US, I leave with my head held high having won the moral victory.”

His father Ashfaq Ahmad said: “After over 40 years of paying taxes in this country, I am appalled that the system has let me down in a manner more befitting of a third world country than one of the world’s oldest democracies.

He said it would be remembered as a “shameful chapter” in the history of Britain.