A British court ruled Thursday that London Imam Abu Hamza al-Masri, Britain’s highest profile Muslim radical, could be extradited to the US to face charges of conspiracy, kidnapping, and providing material support to terrorists. Although Britain is likely to comply, the US bid to extradite Mr. al-Masri still faces several challenges, namely concerns about his potential prison conditions in the US and whether such a move might violate his human rights.
Al-Masri, the firebrand Muslim cleric convicted last year in Britain of soliciting murder and inciting racial hatred, faces extradition to the US on 11 terrorism-related charges. That process, however, could take time, reports the British Broadcast Corporation.
The New York Sun writes that the British home secretary’s assent to extradition is thought to be a formality. Upon her approval, al-Masri can be sent to America to face charges filed against him in New York in 2004.
Mr. Hamza (al-Masri) is charged with sending an associate to collect funds from sympathetic Muslims in New York that were used to send two co-conspirators to Afghanistan to recruit a “front line commander” to direct acts of violent jihad in the West. … The terrorism charges against Mr. Hamza relate to a period in late 1999 and early 2000 in Bly, Ore., when he is accused of trying to set up camps to train youths to commit violent acts of jihad and terrorism. In April 2004 the cleric was the subject of an 11-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury in the Southern District of New York. According to [then US Attorney General John] Ashcroft, between December 23 and 29, 1998, Mr. Hamza plotted to take Westerners hostage in Yemen and provided a satellite telephone to members of the Islamic Army of Aden, who carried out the kidnapping.
CNN adds that al-Masri’s followers include Richard Reid, who was convicted of trying to light a bomb in his shoes on a trans-Atlantic flight, and Zacarias Moussaoui, the only person to be charged in the US in connection with the September 11 attacks. The Guardian notes that for all his condemnations of the US and the West, al-Masri’s “brazenness also helped – with his knowledge or otherwise – the [British] intelligence services.”
Following his conviction last year, it emerged he had repeatedly met MI5 and Special Branch officers. A former MI5 agent who infiltrated the Finsbury Park mosque said Hamza was allowed to operate by the security services as long as he did not threaten Britain’s national security. Both the agent and a close associate of Hamza claimed the cleric was an unwitting informant on other extremists.
The Guardian adds that al-Masri claims he is not a man of violence, but rather he is solely a political advocate.