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Cleric in UK citizenship fight

Hamza said the Columbia astronauts were
Hamza said the Columbia astronauts were "punished" by Allah.

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• Profile: Abu Hamza 

LONDON, England -- Lawyers for controversial Muslim cleric Abu Hamza have vowed to fight the British government's attempt to strip their client of his UK citizenship.

Home Secretary David Blunkett has signed papers revoking Hamza's citizenship under a new law that allows the government to act against dual nationals who threaten UK interests.

On April 1, reforms in the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act came into force. (Full story)

Hamza's solicitor, Maddrassar Arani, said Blunkett did not have the power to revoke her client's citizenship because he did not hold any other nationality and would be left stateless.

Hamza has reportedly renounced his Egyptian nationality, and Arani said any attempt to deport him to his native Egypt would be a breach of the Human Rights Act.

Arani has vowed to fight Hamza's appeal, which could take as long as a decade. The case would first be heard by a Home Office tribunal, with appeals then taken to the Court of Appeal and the House of Lords.

Exhausting the appeals procedures in the UK would take two to three years, the UK Press Association reported.

If unsuccessful, Hamza could take his case to Europe, but there is a waiting list of six to seven years to get a case heard at the European Court of Human Rights, the Press Association said.

Hamza, 45, was granted UK citizenship after marrying a British national. He has repeatedly preached against the West at the North London Central Mosque in Finsbury Park.

He was removed from his position at the mosque by the UK Charity Commission in February, after being accused of abusing his post to preach inflammatory sermons.

Meanwhile, officials in Yemen have issued a written request for Hamza's extradition to face charges relating to a number of terrorist attacks in the Gulf state, PA reported.

Yemen's request includes documents alleging that Hamza was involved in a 1998 kidnap of tourists by the so-called Islamic Army of Aden, which resulted in the deaths of four westerners during a botched rescue attempt by government forces, PA said.

Hamza, leader of the Supporters of Sharia group, first came to prominence in 1999 when five Britons of Pakistani origin were convicted in Yemen for plotting bomb attacks.

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