Terror suspect Abu Hamza has left HMP Long Lartin and has arrived at RAF Mildenhall. He will shortly board a fighter plane and be flown along with four other terror suspects to the USA where he will face terror charges. Juliet Bremner reports.
Hamza has lost his eight-year battle against extradition and will face a series of terror charges in the United States. Two High Court judges in London also rejected last-ditch challenges by four other terror suspects against removal from the UK.
NBC News reports that Hamza is expected to arrive in the United States this weekend and will be taken to New York to face terror charges. Under the extradition agreement, British authorities insisted that none of terror suspects will face the death penalty nor being sent to Guantanamo Bay.
Hamza faces a total of eleven counts of criminal conduct:
- Conspiracy to take hostages in Yemen in 1998
- Hostage-taking in Yemen in 1998
- Conspiracy to provide and conceal material support and resources to terrorists in a Jihad training camp in Oregon
- Two counts of providing and concealing material support and resources to terrorists in a Jihad training camp in Oregon
- Conspiracy to provide material support and resources to a foreign terrorist organisation
- Conspiracy to kill, kidnap, maim and injure persons in a foreign country
- Conspiracy to provide and conceal material support and resources to terrorists in Afghanistan in 2000
- Two counts of providing material support and resources to a foreign terrorist organisation in Afghanistan
- Conspiracy to supply goods and services to the Taliban in Afghanistan in 1999
Hamza's legal team had argued he would be unfit to plead because of his failing health; the court heard he was suffering from long-term depression, an inability to concentrate, and short-term memory loss.
The high court judges rejected his appeal and said his extradition should proceed immediately. During the hearing judge Sir John Thomas said:
There are excellent medical facilities in the United States. The sooner he (Hamza) stands trial the better. If he is at risk of a degenerative condition, the sooner he is put on trial the better. I don't see how delay is in the interests of justice.
The judges also rejected legal challenges by Babar Ahmad, Syed Ahsen, Khaled Al-Fawwaz and Adel Abdul Barry, and said they should also be extradited immediately as they, like Hamza, had "long ago exhausted the procedures in the United Kingdom."
It follows that their extradition to the United States of America may proceed immediately... First, as is apparent from what we have set out in summary, each of these claimants long ago exhausted the procedures in the United Kingdom. They then applied to the European Court of Human Rights on a number of matters. That failed. There can be no doubt that each has, over the many years, either taken or had the opportunity to take every conceivable point to prevent his extradition to the United States.
The US government said they were "pleased" with the decision:
The United States is pleased that the UK judicial authorities approved the extraditions of Abu Hamza al-Masri, Adel Abdul Bary, Khalid al-Fawwaz, Babar Ahmad, and Syed Talha Ahsan to the United States to face prosecution in U.S. courts on terrorism charges. These individuals are being transferred to the United States.
The law enforcement relationship between the United States and United Kingdom is predicated on trust, respect, and the common goals of protecting our nations and eliminating safe havens for criminals, including terrorists.
One of the suspects, computer expert Babar Ahmad, said he would be extradited "with his held high" as he had won a "moral victory" in exposing the "fallacy" of the extradition process.
Ahmad has been in jail without trial since 2005 whilst fighting extradition, and is accused of being involved in a website that encourages terrorism.
Ahmad's father, said he was "appalled" that the system had let him down and said the decision would be remembered as a "shameful chapter in the history of Britain."
Shadow Justice Secretary, Sadiq Khan said there was a "big risk" that the suspects would plea-bargain. He said:
The way criminal cases work in America means that defendants facing a trial are advised to plea-bargain. I predict that both my constituents will do the same as all the other British men extradited to the USA have done and plead guilty. It is a big risk pleading not guilty.
My understanding is that the consequences of this include the threat of life in solitary confinement without parole, should they lose a trial.
If those are the stakes which pleading not guilty involve, then it is no wonder that over 97% of defendants accept a plea bargain.