Human Rights Court Halts Terror Suspect’s U.S. Extradition

The European Court of Human Rights told the U.K. not to extradite a terror suspect to the U.S. because detention in a “super-max” prison might exacerbate the man’s paranoid schizophrenia.

Extradition would constitute ill treatment because of Haroon Aswat’s medical condition, the ECHR in Strasbourg, France, said in a ruling today. Aswat, who is currently detained in a U.K. high-security psychiatric hospital, has been indicted in the U.S. on charges he conspired to establish a jihad training camp in the country.

“There is a real risk that the applicant’s extradition to a different country and to a different and potentially more hostile prison environment would result in a significant deterioration in his mental and physical health,” the court said in a judgment published on its website today.

Aswat was arrested in London in August 2005 after being deported from Zambia. U.S. federal prosecutors in New York claim he plotted with Islamic cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri to set up a jihad training camp in Bly, Oregon, in 1999 and 2000 to equip fighters to wage religious war in Afghanistan.

The maximum security prison in Florence, Colorado, “houses offenders requiring the tightest controls,” according to the website of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Prisons.

The U.K. said Aswat wouldn’t be automatically sent to the prison.

“While a diagnosis of schizophrenia would not preclude designation to a maximum security facility such as ADX Florence, in practice most inmates with this diagnosis were managed and treated in other facilities,” the U.K. said in court documents.

Legal Options

The U.K. Home Office is disappointed by the decision and will consider “as a matter of urgency all the legal options which are available” once the judgment is final in three months, according to an e-mailed statement. “This includes whether we request a referral of the case to the Court’s Grand Chamber.”

U.K. politicians have criticized the Human Rights court for interfering with attempts to extradite terror suspects. Prime Minister David Cameron has said he wants to limit the ECHR’s remit, so it focuses on major cases and interferes less with national governments.

The court last year temporarily blocked the extradition of Abu Qatada, an Islamic cleric accused of having links to the terrorist group al-Qaeda. The Strasbourg court later cleared the way for Qatada to be deported, only for U.K. courts to block the process.

Ramzi Yousef

The prison, south of Denver, Colorado, houses Theodore Kaczynski, also known as the Unabomber, Terry Nichols, convicted in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing and Ramzi Yousef, the convicted mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing serving a prison term of life plus 240 years.

Yousef asked an appeals court in August to lift restrictions on his contact with the outside world. He is barred from having physical contact with other inmates, and his communications with anyone outside the prison are severely restricted, according to his attorney, Bernard V. Kleinman. The lawyer is challenging the government’s decision to re-impose the measures annually without explanation.

Six people were killed in the 1993 bombing and more than a thousand injured.

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