Abu Hamza arrives in US to face court

 

Radical preacher Abu Hamza and four other terrorism suspects have arrived in the United States after being extradited from Britain, US officials confirmed.

The US attorney office in New York said Hamza, Khaled al-Fawwaz and Adel Abdul Bary were in New York City and were expected to appear in court later today.

The US attorney's office in Connecticut said Babar Ahmad and Syed Talha Ahsan are scheduled to appear in US District Court in New Haven.

On Friday, Britain's High Court ruled the men had lost their grounds for appeal and within hours they were placed on flights to the US.

They had been fighting extradition for between eight and 14 years.

Hamza is wanted in the US on charges that include conspiring with Seattle men to set up a terrorist training camp in Oregon and helping abduct 16 hostages, two of them American tourists, in Yemen in 1998.

He has been in a British jail since 2004 on separate charges of inciting racial hatred and encouraging followers to kill non-Muslims.

Khaled al-Fawwaz and Adel Abdul Bary were indicted with others, including Osama bin Laden, for their alleged roles in the bombings of two US embassies in east Africa in 1998.

Al-Fawwaz faces more than 269 counts of murder.

Ahmad and Ahsan face charges in Connecticut relating to websites that allegedly sought to raise money, recruit fighters and seek equipment for terrorists in Afghanistan and Chechnya.

"I am pleased the decision of the court meant that these men, who used every available opportunity to frustrate and delay the extradition process over many years, could finally be removed," Home Secretary Theresa May said.

"This government has co-operated fully with the courts and pressed at every stage to ensure this happened.

"We have worked tirelessly, alongside the US authorities, the police and the prison service, to put plans in place so that these men could be handed over within hours of the court's decision. It is right that these men, who are all accused of very serious offences, will finally face justice."

The suspects had made last-ditch challenges against removal from the UK which were rejected by two High Court judges in London on Friday.

The five terror suspects were transported from HMP Long Lartin in Worcestershire to RAF Mildenhall in Suffolk in a police convoy which arrived at the base at about 10pm.

Officers from the Metropolitan Police's extradition unit handed the men over to US officials before they were taken aboard two planes which left British soil just before midnight, Scotland Yard said.

Lawyers for Hamza, 54, who has one eye and hooks in place of hands he claims to have lost fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan, argued in court that his deteriorating physical and mental health meant it would be "oppressive" to send him to a US prison.

They said he suffers from depression, chronic sleep deprivation, diabetes and other ailments.

The judges said his conditions could be treated in the US, and concluded that "there is nothing to suggest that extradition in this case would be unjust or oppressive".

While Hamza has been portrayed in the British media as one of the most dangerous men in the country, the case of Babar Ahmad has raised concerns among legal experts and human rights advocates.

Ahmad, a London computer expert, is accused in the US of running terrorist-funding websites.

He and Ahsan both face charges including using a website to provide support to terrorists and conspiracy to kill, kidnap, maim or injure persons or damage property in a foreign country.

Ahmad and Ahsan were expected in court in Connecticut today, where an internet service provider was allegedly used to host one of the websites.

Some lawyers and lawmakers have expressed concerns about the case, because Britain agreed to extradite him even though his alleged crimes were committed in Britain and British courts declined to prosecute him for lack of evidence.

In prison since 2004, Ahmad has been held without charge for the longest period of any British citizen detained since the September 11 attacks.

In a statement read on his behalf outside court, Ahmad said his case had exposed flaws in US-UK extradition arrangements. "I leave with my head held high, having won the moral victory," he said.

His father, Ashfaq Ahmad, said he would continue to fight for his son.

"It's not just one Babar Ahmad. Tomorrow there will be another Babar Ahmad and another one," he said.

Mrs May said she was looking at ways of speeding up the extradition process.

"It is frustrating, I think everybody is frustrated at how long it has taken to extradite these particular individuals," she told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

"We will look very carefully at the comments that have been made by the Lord Chief Justice and look seriously at this whole process and whether there are too many stages in these processes.

She rejected claims that the delays were in part down to the failure of Home Office officials to expedite proceedings.

PA

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