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European Court Puts Hamza's Extradition to US On Hold


The European Court of Human Rights has issued an interim order blocking the extradition of Muslim cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri to the United States. U.S. prosecutors accuse him of attempting to set up a terrorist training camp in Oregon. Tendai Maphosa has more in this report from London.

In a statement, the court said it upheld an application by Abu Hamza al-Masri that he should not be sent to the United States to face trial. The Egyptian-born cleric is already serving a seven-year jail term in Britain for inciting his followers to murder non-Muslims and racial hatred.

Hamza has been fighting 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. Hamza then appealed Smith's decision to the courts where it was dismissed last month.

Roisin Pillay of the International Commission of Jurists tells VOA the latest move stops Hamza's extradition pending the court's final decision.

"Basically it means that for the moment the extradition will have to wait because of an application to the European Court of Human Rights which is alleging that Abu Hamza will face inhuman and degrading treatment if he was sent to the United States," said Pillay.

The United States wants to try Hamza 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. If convicted he faces 100 years in jail. But Hamza's lawyers argue that certain aspects of the American justice system are in contravention of the European Convention of Human Rights. Again, Pillay.

"What the applicants are alleging is that their client would face inhuman and degrading and treatment because he would be held in prison for the rest of his life without parole and this is something that is very unusual in European countries, including the UK," said Pillay. "If there is a possibility that he might be held under very high security conditions for the rest of his life that would raise a real issue that, that kind of treatment would be inhuman and degrading and therefore in violation the European Convention."

VOA contacted Hamza's lawyer Mudassar Arani who declined to comment but said the next court hearing is set for August 28.

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