European court backs Abu Hamza extradition


FIVE MEN, including radical Muslim cleric Abu Hamza, wanted on terrorism charges in the United States, can be extradited from the United Kingdom, the European Court of Human Rights decided yesterday. But it could be months before they are taken there.

The five have been given three months to lodge an appeal to the judgment with the Strasbourg-based court’s Grand Chamber, though legal sources last night indicated that a full rehearing of the issues was unlikely to take place.

Besides Abu Hamza, the others are Babar Ahmad, who has been held without trial for more than eight years in a British jail, Seyla Talah Ahsan, Adel Abdul Bary and Khaled Al-Fawwaz. A decision on a sixth man, Haroon Rashid Aswat, who suffers from schizophrenia, has been adjourned.

The prospect of solitary confinement in a maximum-security jail in Colorado and of life sentences without parole if they are eventually convicted does not breach their human rights under Article 3 of the Convention on Human Rights, the court ruled.

The judicial decision was greeted with relief by British prime minister David Cameron, who faces continual pressure from Conservative MPs to withdraw from the jurisdiction of the court, which was established in 1959.

Hamza is wanted by the US authorities, who allege that he tried to set up a terrorist training camp in Oregon and helped terrorists kidnap 16 people in Yemen in 1998, six of whom were later killed during a rescue attempt.

In 2003, he became a nationally-known figure when serving as the imam of the Finsbury Park mosque in North London when he called at a rally in London for the destruction of democracy and its replacement by a caliphate.

Hamza, jailed in February 2006 for seven years for soliciting murder and for stirring up racial hatred among other charges, had been due for release from jail in coming months.

Mr Cameron, speaking during a visit to Japan, said “it is quite right that we have proper legal processes, although sometimes one can get frustrated with how long they take”.

Ahmad, who fought alongside Bosnian Muslims in the 1990s conflict, is accused of running a propaganda website for terrorists. Last week, he told the BBC that he was “fighting for my life”.

Claiming that a miscarriage of justice has taken place, his father, Ashfaz Ahmad said: “Babar has already been imprisoned without a trial for nearly eight years, something he describes as the most unimaginable psychological torture.”

He demanded a public inquiry into his son’s treatment. Mr Ahmad said his son had never been shown details of the allegations made against him and said he should be put on trial in the UK if he is to face a trial anywhere.

Al-Fawwaz, has been charged by the US with 269 counts of murder.

The men have separately fought extradition every step of the way, losing appeals in the House of Lords and the Supreme Court, four of them with the help of solicitor Gareth Pierce, who once represented the Birmingham Six.