Judges to rule on Abu Hamza al-Masri's extradition to face U.S. terror charges

Lawyers for radical Islamist cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri say his mental health is failing.

Story highlights

  • Lawyers for radical Islamist cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri say his mental health is failing
  • Four other men are also fighting extradition to the United States on terror charges
  • U.S. and British government lawyers contested the arguments put forward
  • This week's hearing was the final stage in a long-running legal battle

Two senior British judges are due to decide on Friday if five men, among them extremist Islamist cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri, will be extradited to the United States to face terrorism charges.

The decision, which cannot be appealed, should bring to an end a legal process that in the case of two of the five men -- Khaled al-Fawwaz and Adel Abdul Bary -- has lasted 14 years.

Read more: BBC apologizes to Queen Elizabeth over Abu Hamza revelation

Thursday saw the third and final day of submissions as lawyers for the five men sought to persuade the two judges to stay the extradition, which has already been approved by British courts, the European Court of Human Rights and Britain's home secretary.

Lawyers for al-Masri -- who is wanted on charges relating to a multiple hostage-taking in Yemen, as well as alleged efforts to set up a terror training camp in Oregon -- told the court their client suffers from deteriorating mental health and is unfit to plead. He faces a potential life sentence if convicted.

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

Al-Fawwaz and Bary are accused of being al Qaeda associates of Osama bin Laden in London during the 1990s.

Lawyers for al-Fawwaz presented evidence, including some arising from an interview by British intelligence officers with an al Qaeda informer, which they say discredits the case against him.

Read more: Abu Hamza extradition ruling marks end of era for radical cleric

Presenting medical reports, lawyers for Bary said he had a deteriorating mental illness, making him unfit for detention in a high-security Supermax prison, where he is expected to be held if sent to the United States.

The cases of Babar Ahmad and Talha Ahsan are both linked to a website called azzam.com, which U.S. prosecutors say was run by the two men and used to support terrorism around the world.

Lawyers for Ahmad and Ahsan presented what they said was fresh evidence to support their calls for the two men to be charged with similar terrorism-supporting offenses in Britain, rather than have them face trial in the United States.

The U.S. and British governments were also represented during the hearings and strongly contested the five suspects' submissions.

Lawyers for the British government described the arguments as an abuse of the legal process.

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