Abu Hamza loses extradition battle
on 24/09/2012 18:21:12
A panel of five judges threw out their request to the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights, clearing the way for extradition.
Hamza and the others, who have racked up a multi-million pound bill in detention and legal costs, could be handed over to US authorities and put on a plane within days.
But putting in place the practical arrangements for extradition is likely to take up to three weeks, it is understood.
The ruling amounts to the first green light for US top security prisons and the right of European governments to approve US extradition requests for high-risk suspects.
Hamza, who was jailed for seven years for soliciting to murder and inciting racial hatred, has been fighting extradition since 2004.
Computer expert Babar Ahmad, who was also subject to today's ruling, has been held in a UK prison without trial for eight years after being accused of raising funds for terrorism.
The Home Office said Hamza and Ahmad, with Seyla Talha Ahsan, Adel Abdul Bary and Khaled Al-Fawwaz, would be "handed over to the US authorities as quickly as possible".
The Strasbourg-based human rights court ruled on April 10 that "detention conditions and length of sentences of five alleged terrorists would not amount to ill-treatment if they were extradited to the USA".
The unanimous ruling from the judges said there would be no violation of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights - the prohibition of inhuman and degrading treatment - as a result of detention conditions the five men might face at ADX Florence "supermax" prison in Colorado.
The length of their possible sentences would not breach their human rights under European law either, the court found.
Between 1999 and 2006, the men were indicted on various terrorism charges in America.
Hamza has been charged with 11 counts of criminal conduct related to the taking of 16 hostages in Yemen in 1998, advocating violent jihad in Afghanistan in 2001 and conspiring to establish a jihad training camp in Bly, Oregon, between June 2000 and December 2001.
Ahmad and Ahsan are accused of offences including providing support to terrorists and conspiracy to kill, kidnap, maim or injure persons or damage property in a foreign country.
Bary and Al-Fawwaz were indicted - with Osama bin Laden and 20 others - for their alleged involvement in, or support for, the bombing of US embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam in 1998. Al-Fawwaz faces more than 269 counts of murder.
The judges acknowledged that, in America, Bary faced 269 mandatory sentences of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, while Ahmad, Ahsan, Hamza and Al-Fawwaz faced "discretionary" life sentences.
"Having regard to the seriousness of the offences in question, the court did not consider that these sentences were grossly disproportionate or amounted to inhuman or degrading treatment," the judges said.
"Supermax" jail inmates, albeit confined to cells for the "vast majority" of their time, were provided with services and activities - television, radio, newspapers, books, hobby and craft items, telephone calls, social visits, correspondence with families, group prayer - which went "beyond what was provided in most prisons in Europe", the judges added.
April's landmark ruling, which came after a series of controversial human rights judgments against the Government, was welcomed at the time by Prime Minister David Cameron.
Former Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell added the decision would "do a great deal to restore the reputation of the court", saying: "Perhaps now we can have a rational debate about the role and significance of the European Convention and its fundamental importance to a democratic society like our own."
But tonight Ahmad's family urged Home Secretary Theresa May to halt the extradition until a decision is made on a potential private prosecution in the UK.
"The decision of the Grand Chamber is largely irrelevant to us as this matter should never have come to this stage had the British police done their job almost nine years ago and provided the material seized from Babar's home to the CPS rather than secretly passing it to their US counterparts," the family said.
British businessman Karl Watkin, who is among campaigners opposed to the 2003 Extradition Act, wants to bring a private prosecution against Ahmad and Ahsan in the UK, rather than "outsource the country's criminal justice system to the US".
Neither has been charged with an offence in the UK relating to the website Azzam.com, even though the investigation by US authorities includes evidence seized by the Metropolitan Police. The CPS has refused to prosecute the men.
Newcastle-based Mr Watkin, who has business interests in China and Australia, is seeking consent from Keir Starmer QC, the Director of Public Prosecutions, to proceed with the private prosecution for alleged breaches of the Terrorism Act 2000.