Abu Hamza US extradition backed by European Court

Abu Hamza (left) with a masked bodyguard Abu Hamza: Indicted on charges of alleged terrorism in the US

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The European Court of Human Rights has backed the extradition of Abu Hamza and four other terror suspects from the UK to the US.

The Strasbourg court held there would be no violation of human rights for those facing life and solitary confinement in a "supermax" prison.

Judges said they would consider further the case of another suspect because of mental health issues.

Prime Minister David Cameron said he was "very pleased" with the news.

"It's quite right that we have a proper legal process, although sometimes you can be frustrated by how long things take," he added.

The court's decision is one of its most important since 9/11 because it approves of human rights in US maximum security prisons, making it easier for the UK to send suspects to its closest ally.

There could still hypothetically be an appeal against the court's ruling in its final Grand Chamber - but in practice, very few cases are re-examined in that final forum.

The men have three months to try to persuade the Grand Chamber to reopen the entire case and examine it. If the men fail to launch an appeal, they will be extradited to the United States.

The family of one of the men, Babar Ahmad, who has been held for a record of nearly eight years without trial, said he would fight on against extradition.

Last week, he appealed in a BBC interview to be charged and tried in the UK because his alleged crimes were committed here.

Babar Ahmad: Unconvicted and held for almost eight years without trial - a British record

Home Secretary Theresa May welcomed the ruling, and said she would work to ensure that the suspects were handed over to the US authorities "as quickly as possible".

The US Justice Department also said it was "pleased" about the decision on the five.

"We look forward to the court's decision becoming final and to the extradition of these defendants to stand trial in the United States," it said in a statement.

In the case of the sixth suspect, Haroon Aswat, it said officials would "consult" with the UK's Home Office about the additional submission requested.

The European Court said there would be no breach of human rights if the men were to be held in solitary confinement at ADX Florence, a Federal Supermax jail in Colorado, used for people convicted of terrorism offences.

The Florence 'Supermax' jail

ADX Supermax Florence, Colorado, is also known as the Alcatraz of the Rockies.

It is reportedly equipped with 1,400 remote-controlled steel doors, motion detectors, pressure pads and gun towers.

Solitary confinement is a regular way of life in supermax regimes, with prisoners locked up for at least 23 hours each day.

Supporters say supermaxes are the most appropriate way to house the worst of the worst in the prison population.

Critics say they are an affront to human rights and tantamount to torture.

Abu Hamza is unlikely to be held at that jail because of his disabilities. The court also held that the life sentences each man faces would not breach human rights.

But in Mr Aswat's case, judges said they could not yet give the go-ahead to extradition because they needed to see more submissions on his schizophrenia and how that would be treated were he sent to the US.

The court said that the range of activities and services at ADX Florence was better than that at many European prisons.

It said: "Having fully considered all the evidence from both parties, including specifically prepared statements by officials at ADX Florence as well as letters provided by the US Department of Justice, the court held that conditions at ADX would not amount to ill-treatment.

"As concerned ADX's restrictive conditions and lack of human contact, the court found that, if the applicants were convicted as charged, the US authorities would be justified in considering them a significant security risk and in imposing strict limitations on their ability to communicate with the outside world.

Home Secretary Theresa May: "It was not right to prosecute in the UK"

"The court finds that there are adequate opportunities for interaction between inmates. While inmates are in their cells talking to other inmates is possible, admittedly only through the ventilation system.

"Save for cases involving the death penalty, it has even more rarely found that there would be a violation of Article 3 (that no-one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment) if an applicant were to be removed to a state which had a long history of respect of democracy, human rights and the rule of law."

Abu Hamza is charged with offences relating to hostage taking in Yemen and an alleged plot to set-up a terrorism training camp in the United States. Haroon Aswat is also accused in connection to the training camp.

Babar Ahmad and Talha Ahsan are accused of supporting terrorism through a website operated in London.

The final two men, Adel Abdul Bary and Khaled al-Fawwaz, allegedly played a part in organising the 1998 US Embassy bombings in East Africa.

The law firm representing Babar Ahmad and others in the case - Birnberg Peirce and Partners - said the court had made its decision "in large part on the basis of disputed statistics provided by the UK government to which the applicants were not permitted to respond".

It also stressed that the judgement did not address the "burning issue" of "why in all logic, fairness, and practical common sense are not British citizens (whose UK actions are forming the basis of prosecution in the US, and where all of the evidence on which they are being tried was accumulated in its entirety in the UK by UK police and shipped lock stock and barrel to US prosecutors), being tried in their own country?"

In an unrelated case earlier this year, the European Court blocked the deportation from the UK of a different radical cleric, Abu Qatada, to Jordan, saying he faced an unfair trial.

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper welcomed the ruling against Abu Hamza, but added: "The government now needs to focus on dealing with Abu Qatada, who could have less than a month left of his strict bail conditions, and where the government's own decision to water down counter-terror powers could mean he is allowed to move around London."

The men facing extradition

Name Background Court decision
Abu Hamza

Abu Hamza

Wanted in the US on 11 charges related to taking 16 hostages in Yemen in 1998, promoting violent jihad in Afghanistan in 2001 and conspiring to set up a jihad training camp in Oregon in the US

Can be extradited

Haroon Aswat

Accused of conspiring with Abu Hamza to establish a jihad training camp in Oregon

Case adjourned

Babar Ahmad

Babar Ahmad

Accused of various offences, including providing support to terrorists and conspiracy to kill, maim or injure people and damage property in a foreign country

Can be extradited

Talha Ahsan

Mr Ahsan is Babar Ahmad's co-accused. He faces similar allegations

Can be extradited

Adel Abdul Bary

Adel Abdul Bary

Accused of being a key aide to Osama Bin Laden. Wanted on charges of promoting violent jihad against the West and playing a role in the 1998 US embassy bombings in East Africa, in which more than 200 people were killed and thousands injured

Can be extradited

Khaled al-Fawwaz

Adel Abdul Bary's co-accused and charged with more than 269 counts of murder

Can be extradited

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  • rate this

    Comment number 351.

    At last, now let`s just deport them at the earliest opportunity, preferably today. I note that they have 3 months in which to try and get the decision reviewed by the grand chamber. I believe that we should ignore this and just ship them off to America to stand trial. The French didn`t mess around like this, they just deported their terrorists, no appeal, nothing. Why are we so soft?

  • rate this

    Comment number 329.

    Well I would be celebrating if they were removed tonight but no we have to wait on another three months and its not clear if that is it.

    They have used every law and appeal to delay things - how much has this all cost ?

    Its about time the UK dumps all these daft laws that protect terrorists rather than the victims.

  • rate this

    Comment number 325.

    They do not show remorse, pitty for the poor or the rich, they do not care if their actions affect a baby, mother, father or a child, they toast to see their actions affect both young and the old. It is pretty easy to think you are immune to their cruelty if you've not been a victim and hence publicly defend their rights. Chaps like Abu Hamza do not deserve protection, it is the public that do.

  • rate this

    Comment number 288.

    If the allegations prove to be true, this is a great decision. There is no room in our society for people who hate our way of life and seek to wreck havoc.

  • rate this

    Comment number 143.

    Apart from the immediate consequence of sending Abu Hamza to the US, I hope this decision signals, loud and clear, to those who would harm us that they no longer have recourse to the very protections and rights that they are so fervently trying to destroy.


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