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Radical Muslim cleric fighting extradition to the U.S.

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 8:29 PM EDT, Wed September 26, 2012
Radical cleric Abu Hamza gestures at the 'Rally for Islam' in central London in August 2002.
Radical cleric Abu Hamza gestures at the 'Rally for Islam' in central London in August 2002.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Abu Hamza al-Masri's hate-filled speeches at a London mosque inspired followers of al Qaeda
  • Al-Masri was convicted on various terror related crimes in 2006 in Britain
  • He's fighting extradition from England to the U.S., where he is facing a possible life sentence

(CNN) -- The Muslim cleric who once described Britain as a toilet has launched an appeal to avoid extradition to the United States on terrorism charges, a representative for the High Court in London said.

The representative would not give more details of the appeal or the grounds for it, or talk about other suspects included in the appeal.

Abu Hamza al-Masri faces a potential life sentence in America after nearly a decade of legal battles. He was convicted in a British court and jailed in 2006 for a variety of terror-related crimes.

Al-Masri was born in Egypt in 1958 and gained citizenship in Britain through marriage in the 1980s. He once worked as a London nightclub bouncer. He has a hook for a hand and only one eye, the result of fighting against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.

Accused UK terrorist extradited to U.S.

In 1997, he became the imam of a north London mosque, where his hate-filled speeches attacking the West began to attract national attention. His followers included Richard Reid, the so-called shoe bomber, who attempted to blow up a Miami-bound passenger airplane three months after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Al-Masri has called the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center "a towering day in history" and described former al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden as "a good guy and a hero."

He also described the Columbia space shuttle disaster as "punishment from Allah" because the astronauts were Christian, Hindu and Jewish. The shuttle disintegrated on re-entry to Earth in February 2003, killing all seven people aboard.

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