Abu Hamza extradition freeze by British judge
A British judge halted the extradition of Abu Hamza to the United States on terror charges after the radical Islamist preacher lodged a last-ditch legal appeal.
The High Court will hear the legal challenge from the Egyptian-born cleric and a second terror suspect, Khaled Al-Fawwaz, on October 2, Britain’s Judiciary Office said.
The European Court of Human Rights on Monday gave Britain the green light to deport Abu Hamza, Fawwaz and three other men, and British officials had said they expected to extradite them within two weeks.
But a high court judge “issued interim injunctions preventing their (Abu Hamza and Fawwaz) removal” pending a hearing in open court on their appeal, a Judiciary Office spokeswoman said.
The hearing will take place next Tuesday before two senior judges, John Thomas and Duncan Ouseley, the spokeswoman added.
The grounds for the appeal by Abu Hamza and al-Fawwaz were not immediately clear and their lawyers did not return calls from AFP seeking comment.
Abu Hamza, the former imam of the Finsbury Park mosque in north London, is wanted in the United States on charges including setting up an al-Qaida-style training camp for militants in the northwestern US state of Oregon.
The cleric, who has one eye and a hook for one hand, is also accused of sending money and recruits to Afghanistan’s Taliban and al-Qaida, and of helping kidnappers in Yemen who abducted a party of Western tourists in 1998.
Britain’s Home Office, or interior ministry, said it would continue to try to hand over the men as quickly as it could.
“The European Court of Human Rights ruled there was no bar to the extradition of these men. We will continue working to ensure they are handed over to the US authorities as soon as possible,” a spokesman said.
A British government source told AFP on condition of anonymity that the appeals by the two terror suspects were a “delaying tactic”.
Abu Hamza, who is his mid-50s and whose real name is Kamel Mustafa Mustafa, was jailed in Britain for seven years in 2006 for inciting followers to murder non-believers in speeches on the streets of London.
He remains in prison.
Fawwaz was indicted in the US with late al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden and 20 others for alleged involvement in, or support for, the bombing of US embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam in 1998.
The European Court of Human Rights announced on Monday that it had upheld its own earlier ruling, made on April 10, that approved Britain’s extradition of Abu Hamza, Fawwaz, Syed Tahla Ahsan, Adel Abdul Bary and Babar Ahmad.
The court dismissed their claims that they would face degrading treatment because they would be sent to the notorious ADX supermax prison in Florence, Colorado, and could face multiple life sentences.
It was the five suspects’ final avenue of appeal in Europe and the ruling was supposed to clear the way for Britain to put them on a plane.
Britain’s tabloid press has long demonised Abu Hamza for his Islamist views and the government has been under pressure for years to deport him.
The Queen found herself caught up in the case on Tuesday when a BBC correspondent revealed she had raised concerns with a previous government about Abu Hamza.
The state-funded broadcaster later apologised for having breached the confidence of the queen, who as a constitutional monarch is not supposed to express political views.