Abu Hamza loses extradition fight

LONDON - Renowned Muslim cleric and Imam of London's Finsbury Park mosque Abu Hamza Al Masri on Friday lost his High Court battle against extradition to the US where he faces terror-related charges. Two judges ruled the decision to extradite was 'unassailable' and rejected every single argument his lawyers made against it. The US authorities want the preacher from west London to stand trial for allegedly attempting to set up an Al-Qaeda training camp in Bly, Oregon. He could face a total of 11 terrorism charges, including sending money and recruits to assist the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. Judges at the High Court on Friday dismissed his case and gave his lawyers a fortnight to launch a final appeal bid to the House of Lords. Senior district judge Timothy Workman had already ruled at Westminster Magistrates' Court that Hamza could be extradited and in February, Home Secretary Jacqui Smith gave the final approval. But the cleric from west London, who is currently being held in Britain's Belmarsh top-security prison, insisted on fighting the decision at a huge cost to the taxpayer. They argued extradition was unlawful because he would be tried in the US 'on the basis of the fruits of torture', citing 'clear evidence' torture had already been used by America to gather information backing up their original extradition request. It was also claimed it would be against Hamza's human rights and 'unjust and oppressive' to extradite him after such a long time and that he should be tried in London instead. High Court judges Sir Igor Judge and Mr Justice Sullivan said they completely agreed with the earlier decisions and rejected every argument. They dismissed claims about that the US evidence against Hamza was 'tainted by torture' and therefore inadmissible as flawed. 'The submission fails to recognise that, unlike evidence obtained directly by torture, the 'fruits of the poisoned tree' are, in principle, admissible under domestic law, and that in this respect there is no fundamental difference between the approach to such evidence either in this country or in the USA,' the judgement said. They also ruled that none of the material relied on by the US authorities 'carries anything of the smell of the torture chamber sufficient to require its exclusion in a trial in this country'. The allegation of torture had also been made 'in the most general terms, unsupported by evidence'. It failed to distinguish between evidence 'which is the indirect fruits of torture and that which is indirectly obtained as a result of ill-treatment falling short of torture'. Hamza's future now depends on whether the judges are prepared to certify that his case raises a question of law fit for consideration by the House of Lords. His lawyers have 14 days in which to apply for permission to make this last-ditch appeal. The July 7 London bombers were allegedly inspired by Hamza's sermons and the would-be bombers of July 21 were regular worshippers at the Finsbury Park mosque in north London where he was formerly the imam. In 2003 he was dismissed from his position after making speeches supporting Al-Qaeda and speaking out against the invasion of Iraq. Listed at the London High Court in London under his real name, Mostafa Kamel Mostafa, he was the first person to be arrested under the streamlined Anglo-American extradition treaty when police raided his home in May 2004. The extradition process was put on hold when he stood trial in Britain and attempted to appeal against his convictions. A decision by the House of Lords in that case to refuse him leave to make a further appeal against his convictions left the path clear for extradition proceedings. Some of the most serious charges against him allege that he assisted a gang of kidnappers in Yemen who abducted a party of Western tourists in 1998. Abu Hamza allegedly bought the kidnappers a satellite phone and gave them advice and assistance during the kidnap, in which four people, including three Britons, were shot dead.

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