Abu Hamza loses extradition fight

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Radical Muslim cleric Abu Hamza lost his High Court battle today against extradition to the US where he faces terror-related charges.

Two judges ruled that the decision to extradite was "unassailable".

Egyptian-born Hamza, 51, from west London, who is fitted with hooks on both partially-amputated arms, is serving a seven-year jail term for stirring up racial hatred and inciting followers to murder non-believers.

The US authorities want him to stand trial for allegedly attempting to set up an al-Qa'ida training camp in Bly, Oregon.

He could face a total of 11 terrorism charges, including sending money and recruits to assist the Taliban and al-Qa'ida.

Today Sir Igor Judge and Mr Justice Sullivan, sitting at the High Court in London, gave his lawyers 14 days to apply for leave to launch a final appeal to the House of Lords after dismissing his case.

Senior district judge Timothy Workman ruled at Westminster Magistrates' Court that Hamza, currently held at Belmarsh top-security prison in south east London, could be extradited, and in February this year Home Secretary Jacqui Smith gave the final approval.

Today the High Court judges said they had reached the "clear conclusion that the order made by Judge Workman was properly made, and that the subsequent decision of the (Home Secretary) was unassailable".

Hamza's lawyers had argued at the High Court in London that extradition was unlawful because he would be tried in the US "on the basis of the fruits of torture".

They said there was clear evidence that torture was used on some individuals in the process of gathering the information which led to the US extradition request.

They also contended that it would be "unjust and oppressive" to extradite because of the passage of time and incompatible with Hamza's human rights. They said any further trial should take place in London.

The judges rejected all the arguments.

They said the submission that the US evidence was "tainted by torture" and therefore inadmissible was flawed.

"The submission fails to recognise that, unlike evidence obtained directly by torture, the 'fruits of the poisoned tree' are, in principle, admissible under domestic law, and that in this respect there is no fundamental difference between the approach to such evidence either in this country or in the USA."

The judges ruled that none of the material relied on by the US authorities "carries anything of the smell of the torture chamber sufficient to require its exclusion in a trial in this country".

The allegation of torture had also been made "in the most general terms, unsupported by evidence". It failed to distinguish between evidence "which is the indirect fruits of torture and that which is indirectly obtained as a result of ill-treatment falling short of torture".

Hamza's future now depends on whether the judges are prepared to certify that his case raises a question of law fit for consideration by the House of Lords.

His lawyers have 14 days in which to apply for permission to make this last-ditch appeal.

The 7 July London bombers were inspired by Hamza's sermons and the would-be bombers of 21 July were regular worshippers at the Finsbury Park mosque in north London where he was formerly the imam.

In 2003 he was dismissed from his position after making speeches supporting al-Qa'ida and speaking out against the invasion of Iraq.

Listed at the High Court in London under his real name, Mostafa Kamel Mostafa, he was the first person to be arrested under the streamlined Anglo-American extradition treaty when police raided his home in May 2004.

The extradition process was put on hold when he stood trial in Britain and attempted to appeal against his convictions.

A decision by the House of Lords in that case to refuse him leave to make a further appeal against his convictions left the path clear for extradition proceedings.

Some of the most serious charges against him allege that he assisted a gang of kidnappers in Yemen who abducted a party of Western tourists in 1998.

Abu Hamza allegedly bought the kidnappers a satellite phone and gave them advice and assistance during the kidnap, in which four people, including three Britons, were shot dead.