London: A court in Britain rejected the last-moment court bid by a radical Islamist preacher, Abu Hamza, and four other terror suspects to nullify their extradition and hands over to the United States as they had to fly to the US from Britain soon after the court’s order.
When the Egyptian-born former imam was released from British prison and flown out of a military airbase, it finally ended a legal saga that has dragged on for more than a decade in the courts of Britain and Europe.
Two senior judges at the High Court in London dismissed the men’s pleas to be allowed a stay of extradition and within hours, the suspects were airborne.
Abu Hamza and fellow suspects Khaled Al-Fawwaz, Syed Tahla Ahsan, Adel Abdul Bary and Babar Ahmad, left from the Mildenhall air force base, in eastern England, which is used by the US military.
Abu Hamza has been indicted in the United States on charges including setting up an Al-Qaeda-style training camp for militants in the state of Oregon and involvement in the taking of 16 hostages in Yemen in 1998.
Home Secretary, Theresa May, commented, “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.”
“This government has co-operated fully with the courts and pressed at every stage to ensure this happened,” she added.
She said, “We have worked tirelessly, alongside the US authorities, the police and the prison service, to put plans in place so that tonight 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 interior minister said in a statement.
A judge John Thomas, said, “The applications by all five claimants must be dismissed. It follows that their extradition to the United States of America may proceed immediately.”
Abu Hamza, the 54-year-old Egyptian-born former imam who has a hook for his right hand, failed to convince the judges that his extradition should be blocked in order for medical tests to be carried out for his depression.
The judges said that they were “wholly unpersuaded” he was unfit to face trial, and added that “the sooner he is put on trial the better” and dismissed arguments that the US jail they are heading to would breach their human rights.
The US embassy in London said that it is “pleased with the decision.”
Abu Hamza rose to prominence in the 1990s when he gave fiery sermons at the Finsbury Park mosque in north London, but has been in prison in Britain for eight years after being convicted of inciting hatred.
Babar Ahmad, 38, has been in prison without trial since 2004 and Ahsan, 32, since 2006. Fawwaz, a 50-year-old Saudi, and Bary, a 52-year-old Egyptian national, have both been behind bars since 1999.Lawyers for Abu Hamza argued that he should not be extradited because he needs a brain scan. They told the court that he suffers from depression exacerbated by his “demonization” by the British media, sleep deprivation and memory loss which make him unfit to plead, as well as infections in his arm stumps.