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Court clears way for cleric Abu Hamza's extradition to U.S. on terror charges

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 10:40 AM EDT, Tue September 25, 2012
Abu Hamza al-Masri addresses followers during Friday prayer in near Finsbury Park mosque in north London, March 2004.
Abu Hamza al-Masri addresses followers during Friday prayer in near Finsbury Park mosque in north London, March 2004.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Radical Muslim cleric Abu Hamza faces 11 terrorism-related charges in the United States
  • He'd challenged efforts to extradite him from Britain, but a European court rules against him
  • 4 others also can be extradited, including Adel Abdul Bary, who could get 269 life sentences
  • The U.S. is "pleased" and will work to extradite the 5 terror suspects, a spokesman says

(CNN) -- A European court on Monday ruled that radical Muslim cleric Abu Hamza can be extradited from Great Britain to the United States, where he faces a host of terrorism charges.

The European Human Rights Court issued its ruling, clearing the way for Hamza's extradition. This means that he can now be moved to the United States, though no date has been set.

Hamza faces 11 charges in U.S. courts, including conspiracy in connection with a 1998 kidnapping of 16 Westerners in Yemen and conspiring with others to establish an Islamic jihad training camp in rural Oregon in 1999.

Read more about the Abu Hamza story

The cleric is one of the highest-profile radical Islamic figures in Britian, where he was already sentenced to seven years for inciting racial hatred at his north London mosque and other terrorism-related charges.

Terror suspects to be sent to U.S.

The Egyptian-born Hamza -- who is also known as Mustafa Kamal Mustafa -- has previously denied wrongdoing, saying, "They have no evidence against me whatsoever apart from me trying basically to open the people's eyes about certain principles."

Monday's decision, which was signed by seven judges from different European nations, follows a ruling this spring in which the same court likewise said that Hamza and four other terror suspects could be extradited.

The court determined, then and now, that the suspects would not get "ill treatment" in super-maximum security prisons if they are extradited to the United States and convicted in American courts, according to the European court's decision Monday.

That ruling noted that conditions in such U.S. prisons were in some ways better for inmates than in Europe, given that they'd have access to things like television, newspapers, social visits and hobby-related items. It acknowledged the prisoners may be confined in their cells most of the time, but said this is warranted given the charges they face.

"As concerned ... restrictive conditions and lack of human contact, the court found that, if the applicants were convicted as charged, the U.S. authorities would be justified in considering them a significant security risk and in imposing strict limitations on their ability to communicate with the outside world," the court ruled.

The British Home Office issued a statement Monday saying it "welcomes" Monday's decision, which also affects several others wanted in the United States.

"We will work to ensure that the individuals are handed over to the U.S. authorities as quickly as possible," the office said in its statement.

The U.S. Justice Department, through spokesman Dean Boyd, similarly applauded the European Human Rights Court's ruling.

"We are pleased that the litigation before the European Court of Human Rights in these cases has come to an end, and we will be working with the UK authorities on the arrangements to bring these subjects to the United States for prosecution," Boyd said.

In addition to Hamza, the four others who can now be extradited to the United States are Syed Thala Ahsan, Adel Abdul Bary, Khaled Al-Fawwaz and Babar Ahmad.

The court earlier this year delayed its decision on a sixth suspect, Haroon Rashid Aswat, so that further information could be provided regarding his mental health issues. U.S. authorities allege Aswat -- who suffers from schizophrenia, according to court documents, and is now held in Broadmoor Hospital, a high-security psychiatric facility situated 65 kilometers (40 miles) west of London -- was Hamza's co-conspirator.

All six men were indicted in the United States on various charges between 1999 and 2006, after which they were arrested in the United Kingdom.

Ahmad, for one, is accused of providing material support to terrorists, conspiracy and money laundering. If convicted, he could face a life prison-sentence.

The U.S. indictment against Ahmad accuses him of conspiring to provide support to terrorists, including helping to ship gas masks to the Taliban and using U.S.-based websites to raise money for Chechen leader Shamil Basayev. Basayev claimed responsibility for the Beslan school massacre in Russia in 2004, two years before he was killed by Russian agents.

Two men who can now be extradited -- Al-Fawwaz and Bary were among more than 20 people indicted (with late al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden among them) -- are charged in connection with the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

Bary, for one, could be sentenced to 269 mandatory life sentences if convicted on murder charges tied with the blasts. The other four men who can now be extradited could "face discretionary life sentences" -- which they argue would be unfair -- the European court said.

"The court did not consider that these sentences were grossly disproportionate or amounted to inhuman or degrading treatment," the court said.

CNN's Atika Shubert and Carol Cratty contributed to this report.

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