Five men accused of terrorism charges – including the hook handed preacher Abu Hamza and the controversially detained suspects Babar Ahmad and Talha Ahsan – lost their last minute appeal to stop their imminent extradition to the United States today.
The decision by two High Court judges to proceed with the extradition was welcomed by the Government but was greeted with consternation by those who had campaigned for Ahsan and Ahmad to be tried in the UK.
The five men are all wanted by American prosecutors on a variety of unrelated terror charges. Abu Hamza, a firebrand jihadist preacher who once turned Finsbury Park mosque into his personal fiefdom, is accused of trying to set up a terrorist training camp in Oregan and helping Islamists take and kill hostages in the Yemen. Khalid al-Fawwaz and Adel Abdul Bary, who have been held without charge since the late 1990s, are accused of being members of Al-Qa’ida in London who helped the group take responsibility for the 1998 United States embassy bombings in East Africa.
Babar Ahmad and Talha Ahsan are alleged to have set up and run a number of pro-jihadi websites that operated under the banner Azzam Publications and encouraged a US Navy sailor to leak them classified information.
All five men have fought lengthy legal battles to halt their extraditions to the United States. While Hamza, al-Fawwaz and Bary’s campaigns elicited little public sympathy, the plight of Ahmad and Ahsan gained considerable support following concerns that the Crown Prosecution Service decided not to try the men in a British court for alleged crimes that were committed on UK soil.
Last week the European Court of Human Right threw out their final appeal against extradition. With their removal to the United States imminent, all five men launched their own proceedings in the High Court to seek a last minute injunction. Bary and al-Fawwaz argued that new evidence had come to light in their cases but the judges – Sir John Thomas and Mr Justice Ousely – dismissed this argument saying it did not alter the allegations against them . Hamza claimed he was too ill to stand trial in the United State – something the judges ruled was “wholly unconvincing” arguing that he would be given adequate access to treatment in the United States.
Ahmad and Ahsan contended that the Crown Prosecution Service had acted unlawfully in deciding not to prosecute them in the UK and sought judicial review of that decision. But the judges ruled that the CPS decision was legal.
The judges said there was a “strong public interest” in seeing extraditions for serious crimes take place and they were critical of how long it had taken the courts to come to a final decision. “It is unacceptable that extradition proceedings should take more than a relatively short time to be measured in months not years,2 they said in their judgement. “It is not just to anyone that proceedings such as these should last between 14 and 8 years.”
The Home Office welcomed the decision and said they would press ahead with the men’s extraditions “as quickly as possible”.
However in a statement read out by former Guantanamo detainee Moazzam Begg, Babar Ahmad criticised the decision.
“Today I have lost my 8 year and 2 month battle against extradition to the US,” he said. “I would like to thank all those over the years who supported me and my family: lawyers, politicians, journalists and members of the public from all walks of life. 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."
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