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Hook-handed radical Muslim Abu Hamza can be sent to US, court rules

John Stillwell / PA via AP, file

Abu Hamza, who can now be lawfully extradited to the United States to face terror charges, along with five others.

A radical Muslim preacher can be lawfully extradited from Britain to the United States to face charges that he helped set up an al-Qaida terrorist training camp in Oregon, a court in Europe ruled Tuesday.

Abu Hamza, whose amputated forearms are replaced by hooks, is accused of conspiring to establish a training camp in Bly, Ore., where followers received combat and weapons training for violent jihad, or holy war, in Afghanistan.


The U.S. also believes he helped the extremists who kidnapped 16 foreign tourists in Yemen in 1998. Three British tourists and one Australian visitor were killed in a shootout between Yemeni security forces and the captors.

His extradition –and that of five others on similar charges – has been on hold since 2008 while European judges considered whether conditions at the high-security ADX Florence prison in Colorado would constitute a breach of human rights, making extradition unlawful.

Al-Qaida's top man in Europe freed from British jail

Based on charges filed in the U.S., the suspects could get lifelong jail terms without parole in maximum security conditions, such as with concrete furniture, timed showers, tiny cell windows and no outside communications.

The European Court of Human Rights, based in Strasbourg, France, finally ruled Tuesday that five of the six would not be subject to "ill-treatment" at ADX Florence. The court put off its decision on a sixth accused, Haroon Rashid Aswat, as it awaits further information, including details about his mental health.

The other five may now be legally extradited, although the court said procedures should not start until a possible appeals process is completed.

Britain’s home secretary, Theresa May, told NBC News efforts to extradite the five to the U.S. would begin “as soon as possible” after the appeals window has passed.

“These are individuals who have been accused of some very serious offenses, it is right that they stand trial, I believe it is right that we were able to extradite them," she said.

Lord Carlile, a Liberal Democrat party lawmaker and lawyer with expertise in anti-terror legislation, told NBC News Tuesday's ECHR ruling was “entirely sensible”.

He said: “It's a great shame it has taken so long for the European Court of Human Rights to produce it, at the best part for two years.

“If I sit in London and commit an offense on the internet in the United States, which affects allegedly American national security and safety of American citizens, in my view it would be entirely reasonable for me to be tried in the United States.”

Egypt-born Hamza, also known Mustafa Kamal Mustafa, is already serving a seven-year sentence in Britain for soliciting to murder and inciting racial hatred.

His case had become the focus of growing concern that the European court could over-rule Britain’s attempts to extradite him, potentially compromising national security.

He came to the UK to study in the early 1980s, meeting and marrying an English woman, Valerie Fleming, and receiving British citizenship - although the couple are divorced.

His forearms were amputated after he was injured in Afghanistan, although the exact circumstances have never been clear, according to previous BBC reports. The cause of the accident that led to his disability was not discussed in Tuesday's court ruling.

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