US & Canada

Abu Hamza extradition: US court hears terror suspects

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Media captionAbu Hamza (right) appeared in court without his prosthetics

Islamist cleric Abu Hamza and four other terror suspects have appeared in court in the US, having been extradited from the UK after a long legal battle.

Abu Hamza appeared briefly in a New York court on Saturday before being taken into custody, ahead of a plea hearing scheduled for Tuesday.

In the same court, Adel Abdul Bary and Khaled al-Fawwaz pleaded not guilty.

Earlier, Babar Ahmad and Talha Ahsan pleaded not guilty in a court in Connecticut.

The five suspects had left the UK from an RAF base on two flights, hours after the High Court rejected final appeals against their extradition on Friday.

Abu Hamza faces 11 charges in the US relating to hostage-taking, conspiracy to establish a militant training camp in the US and calling for holy war in Afghanistan.

Mr Bary and Mr al-Fawwaz are charged with conspiring with members of al-Qaeda to kill US nationals and attack US interests abroad.

Mr Bary is also charged with murder and other offences relating to the 1998 bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

Mr Ahmad and Mr Ahsan were indicted in 2004 and 2006 respectively, for offences related to the operation of a website supporting terrorism in Afghanistan and the Russian region of Chechnya.

Hook removed

British national Abu Hamza, 54, who has no hands, came into court without his customary hook and wearing a short-sleeved blue prison shirt.

His court-appointed lawyer, Sabrina Shroff, asked that his prosthetics be immediately returned "so he can use his arms".

He listened to the 11 charges levelled against him, speaking only to confirm court documents signed under his name.

Included in the list of offences are charges for his role in the 1998 kidnapping in Yemen, in which two US nationals were taken hostage and four people were killed.

He is also charged with attempting to establish an al Qaeda terrorist training camp in Oregon in the US in 1999, and facilitating violent jihad in Afghanistan in 2000 and 2001.

The US first tried to extradite Mr Hamza - who has been the focus of much media attention - in 2004.

But the process was halted when the UK decided to try him on allegations of soliciting to murder and stirring up racial hatred relating to his sermons. He was convicted in 2006.

Image caption Khaled Al-Fawwaz (2nd R) and Adel Abdul Bary (R) pleaded not guilty to the charges against them

UK Prime Minister David Cameron said: "I'm absolutely delighted that Abu Hamza is now out of this country.

"Like the rest of the public I'm sick to the back teeth of people who come here, threaten our country, who stay at vast expense to the taxpayer and we can't get rid of them."

Mary Galligan, acting deputy head of the FBI, said: "The extraditions of Abu Hamza, Bary and Fawwaz are a major milestone in our effort to see these alleged high-level terrorists face American justice."

She said they were accused of "planning and carrying out some of the most odious acts of al-Qaeda terrorism".

Mass destruction

Manhattan Attorney records also show that Saudi national Mr al-Fawwaz, 50 - who is indicted on four counts - is charged in relation to offences dating back to 1994, when he is accused of establishing a London office used to provide a cover for al-Qaeda activity.

He is charged along with Egyptian Mr Bary, 52, for offences including conspiring to kill US nationals, conspiracy to murder, and conspiracy to destroy US property and interests.

Mr Bary - indicted on 284 counts - will also be put on trial for his alleged involvement in the 1998 bombings of the US embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania - which caused the deaths of more than 200 people and injured thousands more.

Included in Mr Bary's list of charges are conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction, the bombing of both embassies, murder and attempted murder.

After their appearance in the federal court in New Haven, Connecticut, Mr Ahmad, 38, and Mr Ahsan, 33, both British citizens, were placed in custody until trial. Their lawyers declined to comment.

Mr Ahmad and Mr Ahsan are accused of running a series of websites under the name of Azzam Publications that supported the Chechen mujahideen, the Taliban and other terrorist groups with finding cash, recruits and equipment.

The pair are charged with conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists, providing material support to terrorists and conspiring to kill persons in a foreign country. Mr Ahmad is also charged with money laundering.

Their next appearance in court is scheduled for 15 October, a spokesman for US prosecutors told AFP news agency.

The extradition of the five to the US brings to a close a lengthy legal battle in the UK, during which they fought extradition on the basis they would be held at a special "supermax" prison in the US - and face treatment which would violate their human rights.

Mr Ahmad had been in prison in the UK since August 2004, setting what appeared to be a record for the longest time that a British national has been detained without trial in modern times.