Extradition to US approved for al-Qa'ida suspect

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The Independent Online

The extradition of an alleged al-Qa'ida operative accused of planning to bomb UK and US targets was approved today.

Prosecutors claim Abid Naseer was part of an al-Qa'ida cell operating in the UK in which the participants planned a terrorist attack in Manchester.

The US authorities are seeking to have him extradited.

District Judge Quentin Purdy approved the application in a hearing at City of Westminster Magistrates' Court in central London, but said the case will now go to the Home Secretary.

Ben Cooper, representing Naseer, said his client would appeal against the decision.

Prosecutors in the US want Naseer to stand trial on allegations of providing material support to al Qaida, conspiring to provide material support to al Qaida and conspiracy to use a destructive device.

In his ruling, the judge read part of the US extradition application, which stated: "The evidence at trial will establish that Naseer specifically provided personnel - himself and others - to act under the direction and control of al Qaida.

"US evidence suggested al Qaida attacks in the United States, England and Norway during 2009, and that communications in the emails about weddings, marriage, girlfriends, computers and weather were codes that referred to attacks, bomb ingredients, travel documents and target sites."

The allegations stem from his alleged involvement between September 2008 and April 2009 in an al Qaida cell operating in the UK and which conspired to conduct a terror attack between April 15 and 20, 2009 in Manchester city centre, most likely in St Ann's Square or the Arndale shopping centre.

Naseer, a Pakistani national, was one of 12 men arrested in counter-terrorism raids in north-west England over a suspected bomb plot.

The 24-year-old was released without charge and in May won the right to stay in Britain when a judge ruled his safety could not be guaranteed if he returned to Pakistan.

In today's extradition hearing, the judge said Naseer's representatives had argued he would be at risk of torture and death if he was acquitted in the US and returned to Pakistan.

But the judge said he was "not of the view the US judicial system is indifferent in providing appropriate intervention".

He added: "I must proceed on the firm footing, absent very cogent direct evidence, the rule of law and due process exists for all persons within the jurisdiction of the US courts, including Abid Naseer.

"Accordingly I reject this challenge to extradition."

Following the decision Mr Cooper said: "He will be exercising his right to appeal to the High Court and will be making representations to the Secretary of State."