Hamza faces extradition to US over terrorism charges

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The Independent Online

The radical cleric Abu Hamza could face extradition to the United States on terror charges within weeks after losing a court battle to avoid being sent for trial in an American court.

Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, will make a final decision within two months on whether the preacher is extradited.

Yesterday District Judge Timothy Workman rejected demands that Abu Hamza, 48, should remain in Britain, where he is serving a seven-year jail sentence for soliciting murder and inciting racial hatred. If handed to the US authorities he faces 11 charges including providing support to al-Qa'ida and involvement in a hostage-taking conspiracy in Yemen.

He is accused by the US of conspiring with others to take hostages in Yemen in December 1998. A rescue mission by Yemeni forces recovered 16 of the hostages but four, three Britons and an Australian, were killed in the resulting firefight.

Washington claims Abu Hamza was involved in a global conspiracy to wage jihad against the US and other Western countries.

The cleric, who preached outside the Finsbury Park mosque in north London, is also accused of helping to set up a terrorist training camp in America and helping to fund the trip of a jihadist recruit to a terrorist training camp in the Middle East.

Judge Workman ruled that Abu Hamza should remain in jail while the decision on his extradition is taken. If tried in the United States he would return to Britain to serve his sentence before being extradited back to the US to serve any sentence imposed by an American court.

Alun Jones QC, representing Abu Hamza, told Westminster magistrates' court yesterday that he would be making submissions to the Home Office and would also write to the Attorney General urging that the case be prosecuted in the UK.

Mr Jones said: "We shall be making submissions to the Home Office. We shall also simultaneously be writing to the Attorney General to prosecute the most serious offences here in the UK."

Abu Hamza was arrested on an extradition warrant issued by the US government in May 2004 but the process was put on hold while he stood trial in Britain and attempted to appeal against his UK convictions.

Judge Workman said the conditions under which Abu Hamza was likely to be held in the United States were "offensive" to his "sense of propriety in dealing with prisoners", but being jailed there in the short term would not infringe his human rights.

Abu Hamza is likely to be held in a "supermax" prison in the US, where inmates are locked up for 23 hours a day in cells measuring between 48 sq ft and 80 sq ft with no natural light, no controls over the electric light in their cells and no view outside their cells. They have no contact with other prisoners and no meaningful contact with staff.

Judge Workman said that to hold Hamza, who suffers from diabetes in such a regime for an indefinite period could breach his human rights, but he added: "I am satisfied that the defendant would not be detained in these conditions indefinitely, that his undoubted ill health and physical disabilities would be considered and, at worst, he would only be accommodated in these conditions for a relatively short period of time.

"Whilst I find these conditions offensive to my sense of propriety in dealing with prisoners, I cannot conclude that in the short term the incarceration in a 'supermax' prison would be incompatible with his Article 3 rights."

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