Abu Hamza: What happens next?

 

Related Stories

Eleven years ago, Tony Blair was about to speak at the annual TUC conference when the world witnessed the 9/11 attacks on America.

The speech was cancelled - but very quickly the prime minister declared the UK would stand should-to-shoulder with the American people, against terrorism everywhere.

That declaration of support triggered a massive effort to bring British and American security operations closer together to hunt down anyone the two countries believed was involved in al-Qaeda-inspired violence.

A great deal of that post 9/11 deal focused on extradition and how to bring men like the radical cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri to justice - men accused of supporting terrorism across international borders.

Muslim cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri Abu Hamza could be extradited within weeks

Abu Hamza, a former nightclub bouncer, had seized control of a mosque in north London in the late 1990s and turned it into his powerbase for jihad. His band of followers included men from across the world - men whom the Americans said could be clearly linked to major terrorism plots.

And this is where the interests came together. The Americans knew who they wanted - and the British knew where they were.

The case against Abu Hamza is substantial. He faces 11 allegations including trying to set up a terrorism training camp in a remote region of Oregon. He is also alleged to have assisted in hostage taking in Yemen, an incident in which Western tourists died. If convicted, he faces life imprisonment.

Two of the other five are Saudi Arabian-born Khaled al-Fawwaz and Egyptian Adel Abdul Bary. They are accused of being key aides to Osama bin Laden in London. They allegedly played roles in the 1998 US embassy bombings in East Africa, in which more than 200 people were killed and thousands injured. Mr al-Fawwaz has been held in detention since 1998, four years after he arrived in the UK. Mr Bary was arrested and detained the following year.

Private prosecution

The most controversial cases are those of Babar Ahmad and Syed Talha Ahsan, Mr Ahmad, born and brought up in south London, has been in detention since 2004. No British citizen has been held for longer in the UK without trial.

He is accused of using a London-based website called Azzam.com to provide support for terrorism around the world.

His supporters say he should be tried in the UK because the American case against him relies on material seized by the Metropolitan Police in London. A businessman is trying to privately prosecute Mr Ahmad and Mr Ahsan, saying they should face British justice.

Many legal experts agree that the private prosecution has a slim chance of ultimately stopping those two extraditions. That's something that will become clear in the coming weeks.

But why has this process taken so long?

Babar Ahmad, 37, suspected terrorist Babar Ahmad, 37, has been held in UK custody without trial for nearly eight years

The simple answer is that it was unprecedented. As the cases moved through the British courts, it became clear that there had to be a definitive ruling on whether US jail conditions and justice matched the standards that the UK adheres to through the European Convention on Human Rights.

The five cases slowly came together in Strasbourg, where top human rights judges (it's worth noting that they were until recently led by a British judge) wrestled with complex questions relating to inhumane treatment.

The two key challenges related to what can appear to some Europeans an extreme system in the US. Prisoners can get life sentences without any possibility of parole - the five men facing extradition in this case would not face the death penalty.

Four of the five could face near total solitary confinement for years in ADX Florence, a "supermax" jail used to hold the most dangerous men in the country. Abu Hamza is unlikely to go to that prison because of his disabilities.

Security questions

The court has now ruled that America's standards are compatible with European human rights. That means that any European nation receiving an extradition request from the US, in similar circumstances, can provide the suspect with far less delay - certainly less than a decade.

So the wheels of extradition are now turning. Department of Justice officials will begin talking to their London counterparts in the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice about how the men will be handed over.

Typically, an extradition happens within two weeks of a final appeal being turned down.

These cases may take a little longer to process. The US, for instance, will need to work out what facilities it is providing for Abu Hamza, given his disabilities.

There is also the security question. Each man is considered a high-risk detainee. We don't know yet how the US wants to transfer the men, whether on one flight - which would have enormous symbolic value to British ministers - or separately and with no fanfare.

Once they arrive in the US, the men will be transferred to courts in New York and neighbouring Connecticut where the formal trial process will begin. They will be given lawyers and the same rights as other defendants.

 
Dominic Casciani, Home affairs correspondent Article written by Dominic Casciani Dominic Casciani Home affairs correspondent

More on This Story

Related Stories

Comments

This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
 
  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 111.

    I fear this will go on indefinitely - a political agenda pursued by the ruling liberal courts

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 110.

    How sad that our troops bravely put there lives on the line daily to fight terrorism, yet our cowardly politicians have no courage to do the same back home. Maybe Abu Hamza has incite the injury or worse to an MP or their family before they will have the backbone to do something.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 109.

    "...key challenges related to what can appear to some Europeans an extreme system in the US. Prisoners can get life sentences without any possibility of parole..." How can anyone support the paroling of a person who has worked so diligently at planning, setting up, and supporting networks of terrorists whose sole purpose is to kill innocent US, UK, and EU citizens? Can Abu Hamza be rehabilitated?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 108.

    Regrettably I fear that Hamza will still be here in 12,24 or even 36 months time with a string of reasons why he has to stay (right to family life?).

    Theresa May should waken up, get this man on a plane today and I'm sure we'll all club together and pay any EU fines due for doing this. If he was a UK national it might be different, but he isn't and I'm sick of hearing about his rights...

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 107.

    And true to form this vicious scum launches another appeal to stay in the "toilet".........why isn't he on a plane now?
    The only reason I don't condone the death penalty in this case is because solitary confnement is hopefully awating him in the US.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 106.

    Where did human rights go when these terrorists committed inhuman offenses on innocent people? Why do they ask for their human rights now?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 105.

    86.Frenchy

    There is a flaw in your logic. It's true that environment can help turn some people into criminals but genetics also play a part. Some humans are just "bad to the bone" and there is little you can do with cases like these except lock them up and keep them away from decent people.
    As Yoda said...
    Once you start down the dark path - forever will it dominate your destiny...

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 104.

    88.Sally Eberhardt
    ...this massive setback for human rights?

    The guy has been here for years - given free handouts & legal aid by the state and going through every appeal court in the land until the end of the line. We didn't extradite him to Jordan and when the US made a perfectly reasonable request, we obliged.

    How much more help do you want to give this convicted criminal ?

  • Comment number 103.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 102.

    88.Sally Eberhardt
    It's extremely painful to read the hateful comments here.

    Not as painful as the hurt felt by the families who have had their relatives killed by those who listened to the likes of Abu Hamza. How many young Muslims listened to his words of hate and then went to Pakistan, Afganistan or Yemen to join Al Qaeda or the Taliban ?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 101.

    @86. Frenchy, many forums see reasonable views downvoted whereas extreme ones get upvoted. Perhaps it's a sign of peoples frustrations that cases like this take so long due to legal process and human rights when people simply want these hate mongers shipped off either back to their country of origin or to places where they don't see the legal system as being so biased towards the criminals

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 100.

    Isn't it bizarre that a man who preaches hate for his fellow man, encourages terrorism and random killing hides behind the legal systems and "human rights", the very things that he claims to hate, flaunt or have no repspect for?
    As DrKnow says below ... sling your hook!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 99.

    I am glad if the Queen expressed what most people in Britain must have thought: that it was frustrating that dealing with this man took so long.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 98.

    @88. I think you'll find that an overwhelming majority of the public are more than happy to see the back of Hamza and the other 4. These are the same people that welcome the removal of yet another legal obstacle to remove people that simply detest or way of life and whom would happily see us dead. How can you defend anything that prevents this?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 97.

    @88 sally, I think I've read two comments from you on this topic, both criticising the decision to extradite and the US penal system. What would you propose the UK do here? Just not send him there to face charges? Would you prefer that the British people find the legal case and then happily accept him being in a low security prison with all the mod cons that are available?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 96.

    how can it take so long for the uk to sort a dog like this out usual shambles im afraid another reaso to leave england such a shame

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 95.

    Hard to believe the British police and law systems allow the islamists to do what they do on UK soil. They advocate violence, intolerance and impose "zones" where sharia is the "law"; and they are allowed to get away with it.

  • Comment number 94.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 93.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 92.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

 

Page 1 of 6

 

Features

  • Two women in  JohanesburgYour pictures

    Readers' photos on the theme of South Africa


  • Worcestershire flagFlying the flag

    Preserving the identities of England's counties


  • Female model's bottom in leopard skin trousers as she walks up the catwalkBum deal

    Why budget buttock ops can be bad for your health


  • The OfficeIn pictures

    Fifty landmark shows from 50 years of BBC Two


  • French luxury Tea House, Mariage Freres display of tea pots Tea for tu

    France falls back in love with tea - but don't expect a British cuppa


BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.