U.K. to Accelerate Extradition Proceedings for Islamist Cleric

The U.K. will speed up extradition proceedings against Islamist cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri and four other accused terrorists to the U.S. after a European court blocked an appeal against an April ruling against the suspects.

“We will work to ensure that the individuals are handed over to the U.S. authorities as quickly as possible,” the British Home Office in London said in an e-mailed statement yesterday.

The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg ruled on April 10 that Hamza, 55, jailed in Britain for inciting murder and racial hatred, can be extradited to the U.S. because prison conditions there wouldn’t violate his rights. The court rejected allegations by the cleric and the four others that conditions at a maximum-security federal prison in Florence, Colorado, would constitute inhuman and degrading treatment.

The U.S. seeks to prosecute Hamza on charges he supported the Taliban with money and troops, set up a terrorist training camp in Bly, Oregon, in 2000 and aided a kidnapping plot that left four hostages dead in Yemen in 1998.

The potential for a life sentence and solitary confinement in the so-called supermax prison is justified in cases where inmates are a “significant security risk,” the Strasbourg court ruled in April. The U.S. facility also has amenities that go beyond what’s provided in most prisons in Europe, it said.

Hamza, the former head of the Finsbury Park mosque in north London, was sentenced by a U.K. court in 2006 to seven years in prison for encouraging his followers to kill Jews and other non- Muslims in sermons between 1997 and 2000. An appeals court rejected his claims the jury was swayed by the media’s demonization of the cleric and unrelated acts of terrorism, such as the 2005 bombings on London’s public transport system.

Hamza, who was born in Egypt and granted British citizenship in 1986, is known for the hook-shaped prosthetic he wears in place of his hand. He argued in the U.K. case that he preaches religious tenets set forth in the Koran and was only prosecuted to avoid political embarrassment after the U.S. government filed terrorism charges against him.

To contact the reporter on this story: Patrick Donahue in Berlin at pdonahue1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Hertling at jhertling@bloomberg.net

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