(NEW YORK) — Radical cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri, the man authorities said tried to set up a terrorist training camp on American soil, has arrived in the U.S. to stand trial after an eight-year delay.
Hamza, the one-eyed and hook-handed former imam of a radical London mosque, arrived in New York last night in the custody of U.S. Marshals along with four other terrorism suspects, leaving the U.K. just hours after the defendants lost a last ditch appeal in the British courts. The British national will appear before a federal judge in New York on Saturday and be arraigned on Tuesday.
Also extradited to New York were Adel Abdel Bary and Khaled al Fawwaz, who are charged with conspiring with members of al Qaeda to kill U.S. nationals and attack U.S. interests abroad. Bary is also charged with murder, conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction, and other offenses, in connection with the 1998 bombings of the U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Both Bary, an Egyptian, and Fawwaz, a Saudi, will be arraigned Saturday.
“After years of protracted legal battles,” said Preet Bharara, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, “the extradition of these three alleged terrorists to the U.S. is a watershed moment in our nation’s efforts to eradicate terrorism, and it makes good on a promise to the American people to use every available diplomatic, legal, and administrative tool to pursue and prosecute charged terrorists no matter how long it takes.”
“These are men who were at the nerve centers of Al Qaeda’s acts of terror, and they caused blood to be shed, lives to be lost, and families to be shattered,” said Bharara.
Two other suspects extradited from the U.K., Babar Ahmad and Syed Talha Ahsan, are charged with running a pro-jihadi website and were set to appear in federal court in Connecticut.
An indictment against Hamza, the ex-imam at the Finsbury Park mosque in London, was unsealed after his arrest by British authorities in 2004. It accused Hamza of a litany of terrorism-related crimes including his alleged role in what turned out to be a deadly hostage-taking operation in Yemen. It also said Hamza had tried to set up a terrorist training camp in Oregon and was accused of providing material support to al Qaeda and the Taliban.
Hamza and the four other suspects had put up fierce legal opposition to extradition and had argued they had human rights concerns about the conditions they would face in U.S. prisons. The U.S. government first requested Hamza’s extradition when he was picked up by British police in 2004.
The U.S. Embassy in London said in a release it was “pleased” with the U.K. court’s decision to extradite the group and said the move marked “the end of a lengthy process of litigation.”
“The U.S. Government agrees with the ECHR’s findings that the conditions of confinement in U.S. prisons — including in maximum security facilities — do not violate European standards. In fact, the Court found that services and activities provided in U.S. prisons surpass what is available in most European prisons,” the embassy said.
Though the delay in extradition had centered on the treatment Abu Hamza alleged he could expect in U.S. jails, while in England he had complained about how “the taps were faulty” in his prison.
“I understand the faucets work well in U.S. prisons,” said one U.K. official on Friday, “and the medical care is excellent as well.”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Chuck Johnston, CNN Newswire