Good riddance: Hate preacher Abu Hamza on his way to airport after losing last-ditch attempt to stay in Britain as court rules he must be ‘extradited to U.S. immediately’
Hamza, 54, faces charges relating to kidnapped hostages in Yemen in 1998, advocating violent jihad in Afghanistan and a jihad training camp in Oregon
Home Secretary Theresa May was today given the go-ahead for the immediate extradition of the radical cleric to the U.S.
High Court judges rejected plea for Hamza to undergo a brain scan his lawyers said could show he is medically unfit to face trial
Legal challenges by terror suspects Babar Ahmad, Syed Ahsan, Khaled Al-Fawwaz and Adel Abdul Bary also rejected
Police van believed to be carrying all five suspects leaves HMP Long Lartin in Worcestershire tonight
Plane hired by U.S. justice system is currently waiting on the runway at RAF Mildenhall in Suffolk and expected to fly the men out of Britain later today
PUBLISHED: 15:30, 5 October 2012 |
Radical Muslim cleric Abu Hamza has finally lost his eight-year battle against extradition and will face a series of terror charges in the United States.
Hamza, 54, who is missing his right hand and an eye, has celebrated the September 11 terror attacks, preached jihad to a young congregation, and landed the British taxpayer with a bill running into millions of pounds for his detention and legal costs.
But Hamza will now be handed over to U.S. authorities to face 11 counts of criminal conduct related to the taking of 16 hostages in Yemen in 1998, advocating violent jihad in Afghanistan in 2001 and conspiring to establish a jihad training camp in Bly, Oregon, between June 2000 and December 2001.
He is believed to already be on his way to the U.S.
A police van thought to be carrying the hate preacher, was tonight seen leaving HMP Long Lartin in Worcestershire, just hours after the decision was made.
The van was heavily flanked by a number of other police vehicles with their emergency lights on, thought to be en route to an airport in the south of the UK where the men will be put on to fighter jets and flown to America
Two judges in London earlier rejected the plea by the 54-year-old former imam at Finsbury Park mosque in north London to be given time to undergo a brain scan his lawyers said could show he is medically unfit to face trial..
Hamza, who was jailed for seven years for soliciting to murder and inciting racial hatred in 2006, first faced an extradition request from the Americans in 2004.
The judges also rejected legal challenges by Babar Ahmad, Syed Ahsan, Khaled Al-Fawwaz and Adel Abdul Bary. They are also believed to be in the convoy leaving HMP Long Lartin.
Sir John Thomas, president of the Queen’s Bench Division, sitting with Mr Justice Ouseley, turned down their applications for injunctions preventing their removal and said they should all be extradited immediately.
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A French-built jet is currently waiting on the runway at RAF Mildenhall in Suffolk after Sir John Thomas, president of the Queen’s Bench division, and Mr Justice Ouseley lifted injunctions that had been preventing Abu Hamza’s removal.
All five cases returned to the High Court after judges at the European Court of Human Rights refused to intervene and stop the Home Secretary extraditing them.
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Between 1999 and 2006, the men were indicted on various terrorism charges in America.
Ahmad, a computer expert from south London, and Ahsan are accused of offences 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.
They wanted their removal stopped so that they could challenge a decision by the Director of Public Prosecutions not to allow British businessman Karl Watkin, a campaigner against the UK’s extradition arrangements with the United States, to bring prosecutions against them in the UK.
Bary and Al-Fawwaz were indicted – with Osama bin Laden and 20 others – for their alleged involvement in, or support for, the bombing of US embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam in 1998.
Al-Fawwaz faces more than 269 counts of murder.
A Home Office spokesman said: ‘We welcome the High Court decision on Abu Hamza and others. We are now working to extradite these men as quickly as possible.’
Dismissing the five cases, Sir John announced: ‘It follows that their extradition to the United States of America may proceed immediately.’
He told the packed court it was important to make six general observations.
He said: ‘First, as is apparent from what we have set out in summary, each of these claimants long ago exhausted the procedures in the United Kingdom.
‘They then applied to the European Court of Human Rights on a number of matters. That failed.
‘There can be no doubt that each has, over the many years, either taken or had the opportunity to take every conceivable point to prevent his extradition to the United States.
‘Second, there is an overwhelming public interest in the proper functioning of the extradition arrangements and the honouring of extradition treaties.
‘It is also in the interest of justice that those accused of very serious crimes, as each of these claimants is in these proceedings, are tried as quickly as possible as is consistent with the interests of justice.’
The judge added: ‘It is unacceptable that extradition proceedings should take more than a relatively short time, to be measured in months not years.
‘It is not just to anyone that proceedings such as these should last between 14 and eight years.
‘Thirdly, it is necessary to emphasise the importance of finality in litigation and the particular importance of that principle in extradition cases because of the public interest in an efficient process, the need to adhere to international obligations and to avoid a recurrence of the delays which have so disfigured the extradition process in the past and to which successive appeals over time can subject it.’
Hamza once appeared to embrace Western society and worked as a bouncer in a Soho nightclub. He had a reputation for socialising and heavy drinking when he first came to Britain from Egypt 30 years ago.
Born in Alexandria, he studied civil engineering and in 1984 married a British woman, Valerie Fleming. But throughout the 1980s he slowly began to turn towards a fundamentalist interpretation of the Koran.
In 1990 he divorced his wife and returned to Egypt where he reinvented himself as a Muslim ‘holy man’ or sheikh. He travelled to Pakistan and then on to Afghanistan which was at the time gripped by civil war as differing factions fought to fill the power vacuum left by the retreat of Russian troops.
It is unclear if he fought there but when he returned to the UK with his British passport in the early 1990s he was missing his right hand and an eye. He claims he lost the hand fighting jihad in Afghanistan.
In 1996 he re-emerged at Finsbury Park Mosque in north London preaching jihad to a young congregation.
Then in January 1999 three British tourists were killed in Yemen, drawing public attention to the civil war between fundamentalists and the secular government there, which accused Abu Hamza of using his mosque to recruit Islamic warriors to the fundamentalist cause.
He was alleged to have been the leader of a cell called Supporters of Sharia. Yemen said that it wanted him extradited.
But Hamza continued to court controversy. Following the September 11 attacks in the US, he said: ‘Many people will be happy, jumping up and down at this moment’.
‘WE WILL NEVER ABANDON OUR FIGHT FOR JUSTICE’
Babar Ahmad said today that he would be extradited to the U.S. to face terror charges ‘with his head held high’.
Computer expert Ahmad, who has been in jail without trial since 2004 while fighting extradition, is accused of being involved in a website which encouraged terrorism and which, while operated from London, was hosted in the US.
In a statement, Ahmad who has pleaded to be charged and tried in Britain, said: ‘Today I have lost my eight-year and two-month battle against extradition to the US.
‘I would like to thank all those over the years who supported me and my family: lawyers, politicians, journalists and members of the public from all walks of life.
‘By exposing the fallacy of the UK’s extradition arrangements with the US, I leave with my head held high having won the moral victory.’
His father Ashfaq Ahmad, 77, from Tooting, London, said: ‘After over 40 years of paying taxes in this country, I am appalled that the system has let me down in a manner more befitting of a third world country than one of the world’s oldest democracies.
‘It seems that the Metropolitan Police, the CPS and even the court have all colluded to implement a pre-determined decision which was made in Washington.
‘We will never abandon our struggle for justice and the truth will eventually emerge of what will be forever remembered as a shameful chapter in the history of Britain.’
In February 2006, Hamza was jailed in the UK for seven years for soliciting murder and inciting racial hatred, and it has been suggested that it was racial abuse of one of his sons that turned him into a critic of Western life.
From his maximum-security prison cells at Belmarsh in south east London and Long Lartin in Worcestershire, he has fought extradition for years, claiming the prospect of solitary confinement in one of the US’s ‘supermax high-security jails and sentences of life imprisonment without parole would breach a European ban on ‘torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment’.
But human rights judges ruled in April this year that there would be no violation of the European Human Rights Convention if the UK extradited him to the US to face a range of terrorist charges.
After his bid to appeal against the decision in the court’s Grand Chamber was rejected by a panel of judges last month, the Home Office said it wanted to hand over Hamza to the US authorities as quickly as possible.
Yet another appeal, this time back at the High Court in London, led to Britain’s most senior judge, Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge, declaring that such delays in cases like this were a ‘source of real fury’.
The extradition was again put on hold, with Hamza’s legal team claiming a brain scan was needed to establish whether he was unfit to plead because of degenerative problems.
But Sir John Thomas, president of the Queen’s Bench Division, suggested in the course of legal argument that if there was a risk of a degenerative condition, ‘the sooner he is put on trial the better – I don’t conceivably see how a delay can conceivably be in the interests of justice’.
Home Secretary Theresa May is now entitled to ‘move instantly’ and hand Hamza over to the U.S.
Under the U.S. extradition agreement with the UK, British authorities insist they neither face the death penalty nor the prospect of being sent to Guantanamo Bay as terrorism detainees.
TIMELINE OF ABU HAMZA’S BATTLE TO STAY IN THE UK
Hamza, who was born Mustafa Kamel Mustafa in Alexandria, Egypt, in April 1958, came to the UK to study in the early 1980s. He met and married an English woman, Valerie Fleming, and received British citizenship, but the couple divorced years later.
He suffered injuries to his hands and eye in Afghanistan, where he travelled to fight a jihad against Soviet occupation. On his return to the UK, Hamza started preaching radical anti-Western sermons at Finsbury Park Mosque in north London.
Over the last eight years he has fought extradition to the U.S. to face numerous terror-related charges.
Here is a timeline of key events in his case
September – Following the 9/11 attacks, Hamza’s comments in support of Osama bin Laden spark outrage.
April – Hamza is formally suspended by the Charity Commission from his position at Finsbury Park Mosque over his inflammatory speeches.
September 11 – Hamza speaks at a controversial conference at the mosque titled A Towering Day In History.
January – Armed police arrest seven people at the mosque in a dawn raid. A stun gun, replica firearms and CS gas canisters are among the items seized.
February – Hamza again causes outrage when he describes the ill-fated Columbia space shuttle, which contained Christians, Hindus and a Jew, as a ‘trinity of evil’ and says its destruction was a punishment from Allah.
April – Home Secretary David Blunkett announces new laws allowing British citizenship to be removed from immigrants who ‘seriously prejudice’ the UK’s interests. Legal moves begin to get Hamza deported to Yemen. Two weeks later, his lawyers announce he will appeal against the move.
May – Hamza is arrested on a US extradition warrant. The US wants him on charges of conspiring to take Western hostages in Yemen, funding terrorism, and organising a terrorist training camp in Oregon between 1998 and 2000.
October – He is charged with 15 offences under the Terrorism Act, including incitement to murder and possession of a terrorism document, temporarily staying the US extradition process.
February 7 – Hamza is jailed for seven years after being found guilty on 11 of 15 charges.
July – He is given the go-ahead to challenge the convictions for incitement to murder and race hate offences.
November – The Court of Appeal dismisses his appeal against the conviction.
May – A preliminary extradition hearing takes place in London.
July – Hamza speaks by video-link in a hearing to fight the extradition.
November – A judge at City of Westminster Magistrates’ Court rules that Hamza has lost his legal arguments against extradition. Senior District Judge Timothy Workman sends the matter to the Home Secretary to make a final decision.
February 7 – Home Secretary Jacqui Smith signs an extradition order, meaning Hamza will be handed over to US authorities within 28 days if he does not appeal.
June 20 – Two High Court judges rule that the extradition decision is ‘unassailable’.
July 23 – Hamza is refused permission to appeal to the House of Lords as senior judge Sir Igor Judge refuses to certify that his case raises a point of law of such public importance to go before the highest court in the land.
August 4 – The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg rules that Hamza should not be extradited until judges can examine his case. The Home Office says it will abide by the court’s request.
January 18 – Hamza launches another legal fight to hang on to his British passport.
February 9 – Legal aid bosses seize Hamza’s house in Greenford, west London, to pay off his legal bills, despite the radical preacher claiming it does not belong to him. Officials hope to raise £280,000 from the sale.
November 5 – Hamza wins his appeal against the Government’s attempts to strip him of his British passport. The move would have rendered him ‘stateless’ as he has already been stripped of his Egyptian citizenship, the Special Immigration Appeals Commission rules.
April 10 – Europe’s human rights judges rule that Hamza, along with four other terror suspects, would not be subject to ‘ill-treatment’ in America and their extradition is lawful.
July 9 – Hamza lodges an appeal with the ECHR over his extradition to the US – on the eve of the July 10 deadline.
September 24 – Hamza’s request for an appeal is rejected as Europe’s human rights judges rule he can be extradited to America.
September 25 – BBC journalist Frank Gardner apologises for a ‘breach of confidence’ after telling the Radio 4 Today programme that the Queen had voiced concerns about the UK’s inability to arrest Hamza.
September 26 – Hamza launches a last-minute High Court challenge in a move to avoid extradition.
September 27 – The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, says extensive delays in cases such as the extradition of radical cleric Abu Hamza are a ‘source of real fury’.
October 3 – Hamza’s legal team claim his health is ‘deteriorating’ and he is suffering from long-term depression, inability to concentrate and short-term memory loss.
But Sir John Thomas, president of the Queen’s Bench Division, suggests that if there is a risk of a degenerative condition, ‘the sooner he is put on trial the better.
October 5 – The High Court rules that Hamza can be extradited to the US, clearing the way for his immediate departure.
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