Abu Hamza: High Court judge halts extradition to the US

Abu Hamza Abu Hamza is accused of planning to set up a terrorism training camp

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A High Court judge has halted the extradition of Abu Hamza al-Masri to the US on terror charges after the cleric launched a last-ditch appeal.

An injunction temporarily stops the removal of the radical cleric and another suspect from the UK and is the latest move in a long legal battle.

The European Court of Human Rights had earlier rejected attempts to block them being sent for trial in the US.

The pair will outline their appeals at a hearing next Tuesday and Wednesday.

On Monday, the European court ruled that the men and three other suspects should stand trial in the US.

The Judicial Office confirmed Abu Hamza and Khaled Al-Fawwaz were "seeking injunctions preventing their removal from the UK".

A spokesperson said: "A High Court judge has considered the applications on the papers and adjourned the cases to a hearing in open court.

"The judge has issued interim injunctions preventing their removal prior to those hearings. The judge has directed the hearings be fixed urgently."

If the European Court has already ruled that Abu Hamza and Khaled al-Fawwaz can be extradited, how can they hope to stop the process?

The simple answer is that they have to prove to a judge back in London that there is some new and compelling factor that has not been already considered by all the court hearings going back years.

An interim injunction is just that - the attempt to halt extradition may be over within days.

The injunction does not mean the men have a sound case to avoid extradition, only that the High Court wants to hear the arguments in full. This kind of application and hearing is part of the standard cut-and-thrust of the legal world.

If a judge rejects the applications, the extradition is back on, unless the men get permission to appeal.

The defendants would need to prove to a judge that there is "some new and compelling factor" that has not been already considered by previous courts.

Legal sources have told the BBC that Mr Al-Fawwaz had new evidence to support his case.

He is said to have been delisted as a terrorist by the US authorities and the home secretary has been invited to reconsider her decision to approve his extradition.

BBC News home affairs correspondent Danny Shaw said one of the grounds for Abu Hamza's legal action was believed to be deteriorating mental health.

He is being represented by lawyers at Sonn Macmillan Walker but the London-based firm declined to comment on the case.

In a statement, it said: "Given the sensitive nature of this matter we regret that we are unable to provide further details at this stage."

A Home Office spokesman said: "The European Court of Human Rights ruled there was no bar to the extradition of these men.

"We will continue working to ensure they're handed over to the US authorities as soon as possible".

'No violation'

The European court's decision meant that Abu Hamza and the four others were facing trials in the US after delays going back to the late 1990s.

Abu Hamza's legal fight

  • May 2004: Abu Hamza arrested in London on US extradition warrant - for allegedly organising militant training camp in Oregon and assisting in kidnapping in Yemen
  • Oct 2004: Charged in UK with 15 offences under Terrorism Act, including soliciting to murder
  • Feb, 2006: Abu Hamza found guilty of 11 charges and jailed for seven years
  • Jul 2006: Given go-ahead to challenge some convictions
  • Nov 2006: Court of Appeal dismisses case
  • May 2007: Preliminary extradition hearing
  • Nov 2007: Magistrates court rules Abu Hamza has lost his legal arguments against extradition. Matter sent to home secretary for decision
  • Feb 2008: Home Secretary Jacqui Smith signs extradition order
  • Jun 2008: High Court judges rule extradition decision is "unassailable"
  • Jul 2008: Abu Hamza refused permission to appeal to House of Lords
  • Aug 2008: European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) rules no extradition until judges examine his case
  • 10 Apr 2012: ECHR rules extradition is lawful
  • 9 Jul 2012: Abu Hamza appeals ECHR decision
  • 24 Sep 2012: Appeal rejected. Judges rule he can be extradited
  • 26 Sep 2012: Abu Hamza launches High Court attempt to avoid extradition. It later temporarily bars extradition

It was expected the extradition of the men was likely to happen within weeks as all appeals in the legal process were said to have been exhausted.

The five men claim they would face inhumane treatment in US prisons if handed over.

But in April, the Strasbourg court ruled there would be "no violation" of the suspects' rights if they were put on trial in the US.

In Monday's ruling, the court refused men permission to launch an appeal against that decision.

Abu Hamza is wanted over allegations he plotted to set up a terrorist training camp in the US and was involved in kidnapping Western hostages in Yemen.

The other three suspects facing extradition are Adel Abdul Bary, Barbar Ahmad and Syed Talha Ahsan.

Mr Bary is accused, along with Mr Al-Fawwaz, of being aides to Osama bin Laden in London. Both men have been linked to alleged involvement in the bombing of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998.

Mr Ahmad and Mr Ahsan are accused of running a jihadist website in London that provided material support for terrorism.

There has been an 11th-hour attempt to privately prosecute the pair by campaigners opposed to the 2003 Extradition Act.

Their alleged offences occurred in the UK and the campaigners said the British authorities had all the information that was the basis for the US accusations and they should be prosecuted in this country.

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