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British Court Rejects Muslim Cleric's US Extradition Appeal


A British court has rejected an appeal by a radical Muslim cleric who has been trying to block his extradition to the United States. From London, Tendai Maphosa reports for VOA that U.S. prosecutors accuse the cleric of attempting to set up a terrorist training camp in the western U.S. state of Oregon.

Egyptian-born Abu Hamza al-Masri is already serving a seven-year jail term in Britain for inciting racial hatred and urging his followers to murder non-Muslims.

The United States wants to try him on 11 charges, including funding terrorism, organizing a terrorist training camp in Oregon between 1998 and 2000 and conspiracy to take 12 Westerners hostage in Yemen in 1998.

Hamza has been fighting his extradition since the request was first filed in May 2004.

He appealed against a court's approval of his extradition in 2007. Home Office Secretary Jacqui Smith rejected the appeal earlier this year.

Speaking after Smith's ruling, Hamza's lawyer, Muddassar Arani, expressed concerns about what might happen should he be extradited to the United States. She said even though the Americans said he would not face the death penalty or be sent to the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, there were no guarantees this would not happen. She also alleged her client could be tortured if sent to the United States.

Requests by VOA to obtain comment from his legal representatives went unanswered, but a Reuters news report says Hamza could still renew his appeal application directly to the Law Lords, Britain's highest judicial body.

His other option, Roisin Pillay, a spokesperson of the International Commission of Jurists told VOA is an appeal to the European Court of Human rights.

"There are some circumstances in which he could appeal to the European Court of Human Rights if he alleged that he would not face a fair trial in the United States; he alleged that he would face the death penalty in the United States and would spend time on death row there," Pillay said. "In those circumstances the European Court of Human rights would order that he should not be extradited because it has found that spending time on death row, for example, can amount to inhuman and degrading treatment."

If Hamza is extradited, tried and found guilty by a U.S. court he faces up to 100 years in jail.

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