Abu Hamza al - Masri to be extradited to US to face terrorism charges
November 15, 2007
Abu Hamza to be extradited to US to face terror charges
Abu Hamza al-Masri, the Islamic cleric serving a prison sentence for soliciting murder, is to be extradited to the United States to face terrorism charges.
A judge at City of Westminster Magistrates' Court this morning approved a request by the American Government for Abu Hamza to be transferred to the US to face charges of organising a global conspiracy to wage jihad against America and its allies.
He is also accused of involvement in the kidnapping of Western tourists in Yemen and helping to set up a terrorist training camp in America, as well as of helping to fund the trip of a would-be jihadist to a terrorist training camp in the Middle East.
Abu Hamza is currently serving a seven-year prison sentence in Britain after being convicted last February of soliciting murder and inciting racial hatred.
Senior District Judge Timothy Workman, ruling that there should be no legal bar to extraditing Abu Hamza to the US, referred the matter to the Home Secretary, where the decision is expected to be rubber-stamped in the coming days.
"The defendant is currently serving a sentence of imprisonment in the United Kingdom, but subject to any representations from counsel I propose to send the matter to the Secretary of State for his decision on whether the defendant should be extradited to America," Mr Workman said.
Alun Jones, QC, defending, announced that he would be making submissions to the Home Office urging that the case be prosecuted in the UK.
The defence's case rests around the fact that the US is likely to detain Abu Hamza in one of the country's notorious Supermax prisons. The court was told that conditions in these jails include inmates being locked up for 23 hours a day in small cells — between 48 and 80 square feet (4.5sq m and 7.5sq m) — with no natural light, no control over the electric light and no view. During this time they have no contact with other prisoners, even verbal, and no meaningful contact with staff.
They may be able to spend up to an hour every other day alone in a concrete exercise pen, but access to books and writing material is limited and visits from family are believed to be infrequent.
Mr Workman described the conditions as "offensive to my sense of propriety in dealing with prisoners". However, he added that being jailed there in the short term would not amount to inhuman and degrading treatment and, as such, breach Abu Hamza's human rights.
"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," he said.
"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."
Today's decision appears to mark the conclusion of a long battle by American authorities to have Abu Hamza extradited from Britain.
The cleric, whose inflammatory speeches at Finsbury Park mosque made national headlines, was originally arrested on an extradition warrant in May 2004 but the process was put on hold while he stood trial in Britain and attempted to appeal against his UK convictions.
However, in January this year a decision by the House of Lords to refuse him leave to make a further appeal against his convictions left the path clear for the present proceedings.
Once tried in the US, he would then be returned to the UK to complete his jail term before being extradited if any sentence were handed down to him by an American court.
After today's ruling Mr Jones, representing Abu Hamza, told the court: "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 on the basis that three UK citizens were killed and no US citizens were killed."
A Home Office spokesman said that Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, would make the final decision in the coming days, based on the court's ruling. She is expected to approve the extradition.
"Westminster magistrates have decided to send the case to the Home Secretary to decide. It is our role now to make a call on whether to extradite him," a Home Office spokesman said.
"The decision today was part of a legal process to examine whether there is a bar to extraditing him. The court decided that there wasn't."