Radical Cleric Abu Hamza Set for Extradition to U.S.

W460

Britain on Tuesday prepared to hand over radical Muslim preacher Abu Hamza to the United States on terrorism charges after the European Court of Human Rights rejected his final appeal.

The Strasbourg-based court on Monday upheld an April 10 ruling against the Egyptian-born terror suspect and four others which had approved their extradition by London, ending a long legal battle.

The development sparked another row when the BBC was forced to apologize to Britain's Queen Elizabeth II after revealing in a report that she had raised concerns with a previous government about the hook-handed cleric.

In a rare clash between two pillars of British life, the BBC said it deeply regretted the breach of confidence after a senior correspondent reported comments that the monarch made to him.

Hamza and the other suspects had argued that they would face degrading treatment because they would be sent to the notorious ADX supermax prison in Florence, Colorado and would face possible multiple life sentences.

But the Grand Chamber of the European court unanimously decided there would be "no violation" of the European Convention of Human Rights if they were sent to the United States.

U.S. Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd said the United States was "pleased" by the decision and vowed to work with Britain to extradite the men.

The British government also welcomed the decision but said an extradition would not take place immediately.

A government source told AFP it was "likely to be within weeks rather than days -- at least a couple of weeks for arrangements to be put in place".

The BBC's security correspondent Frank Gardner revealed that the queen had quizzed the previous government before Hamza's initial arrest in 2004 as to why he was still a free man.

But within hours the broadcaster said it deeply regretted the breach of confidence and apologized, saying Gardner had revealed the details of "a private conversation which took place some years ago with the queen".

"The conversation should have remained private and the BBC and Frank deeply regret this breach of confidence. It was wholly inappropriate," a BBC spokesman said.

"Frank is extremely sorry for the embarrassment caused and has apologized to the palace."

Hamza, the former imam of the Finsbury Park mosque in north London, is wanted in the United States on charges including setting up an Al-Qaida-style training camp for militants in the northwestern U.S. state of Oregon.

He is also accused of having sent money and recruits to assist Afghanistan's hardline Taliban militia and Al-Qaida, and of helping a gang of kidnappers in Yemen who abducted a 16-strong party of Western tourists in 1998.

Hamza, who is in his mid-50s and has one eye and a hook for one hand, was jailed in Britain for seven years in 2006 for using speeches on the streets of London to incite followers to murder non-believers.

He had lodged the appeal along with computer expert Babar Ahmad, who has been held in a British prison without trial for eight years after being accused of raising funds for terrorism.

A campaign of support for Ahmad, run by his family, friends and supporters, last year sent a petition signed by almost 150,000 supporters to the British government urging that he be tried in Britain.

Supporter Karl Watkin has brought a private prosecution against Ahmad in the hope that it will force a trial in Britain, but the Crown Prosecution Service has yet to make a decision on the trial.

"The principle is simple, if you are British, and alleged to have done something criminal in this country, then you get prosecuted in this country," Watkin said.

The others to lose their appeals were Syed Tahla Ahsan, Adel Abdul Bary and Khaled Al-Fawwaz.

The court suspended judgment on a sixth man, Haroon Rashid Aswat, who suffers from schizophrenia, saying it required further consultations on his condition.

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