Muslim cleric would not get fair trial in US, court told

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The Independent Online

Abu Hamza, the Muslim cleric facing extradition to the United States on terrorism charges, would not receive a fair trial in America because the evidence against him has been obtained by torture and plea bargaining, a court was told yesterday.

Abu Hamza, the Muslim cleric facing extradition to the United States on terrorism charges, would not receive a fair trial in America because the evidence against him has been obtained by torture and plea bargaining, a court was told yesterday.

Lawyers representing the London-based cleric also argued that Mr Hamza, 46, had already been declared a global terrorist by George Bush.

The former imam of Finsbury Park mosque in north London was arrested in May. He faces nine charges which involve hostage-taking in Yemen, a conspiracy to set up a terrorist training camp and assisting terrorist groups in Afghanistan.

James Lewis QC, for the US government, told the hearing in London that the Egyptian-born cleric was part of a worldwide conspiracy to wage war on the West. James Lewis QC said: "He has consistently advocated hatred and violence against the United States of America, which he called the United Snakes of America."

As Mr Lewis outlined the case against him, Mr Hamza sat in the dock at Belmarsh magistrates' court after being led through a tunnel from his cell at the adjacent high-security prison. He lost a hand and an eye in an explosion in Afghanistan.

Mr Hamza is accused of trying to set up a terror training camp in the US state of Oregon and sending another radical Islamic fundamentalist to Afghanistan to fight for the Taliban.

Mr Lewis read an affidavit from the FBI agent Michael S Butsch, leader of the US investigation into Mr Hamza. The statement repeated details given during Mr Hamza's first appearance at Belmarsh in May.

Mr Lewis said an associate of Mr Hamza was at one of the jihad camps in Afghanistan during a visit by Osama bin Laden and the man met the British shoe bomber Richard Reid, whom he came to idolise.

Ed Fitzgerald QC, representing Mr Hamza, said the cleric was protected under UK law from extradition to face charges in the US. He told the court that his client could not be guaranteed a fair trial in America and that evidence likely to be used against him would be in contravention of his human rights.

He said that US prosecutors would be likely to rely on statements from a detainee at Guantanamo Bay and other evidence gained through "torture or inhuman or degrading treatment".

He said another detainee who was going to testify against Mr Hamza was "someone who has done a deal with the US authority as a result of which he is being released three years into a 25-year sentence".

The court also heard that Mr Hamza's name was used in a presidential declaration of foreign terrorist suspects, which Mr Fitzgerald said "violates the presumption of innocence".

He told the court that claims relating to the Yemeni hostage-taking had been investigated by British police in 1989 and no charges had been brought.

Mr Hamza, who later left the court due to sickness, was remanded in custody in his absence to appear via a video link at Bow Street magistrates' court on 20 August. District Judge Timothy Workman also ordered that he should appear for a further extradition hearing on 19 October.