Wednesday 21 March 2018

Abu Hamza gets his day in US court after extradition


ABU HAMZA and four other terrorism suspects appeared in federal courts yesterday, hours after they lost years-long extradition fights in Britain and were transported to the US under tight security to face trial.

Abu Hamza al-Masri, the Egyptian-born preacher, entered no plea to charges of conspiring with Seattle men to set up a terrorist training camp in Oregon and of helping abduct 16 hostages in Yemen in 1998.

The four other extradited men pleaded not guilty. Khaled al-Fawwaz and Adel Abdul Bary appeared alongside al-Masri in New York, and Syed Talha Ahsan, 33, and Babar Ahmad, 38, were arraigned in New Haven, Connecticut, on charges that they provided terrorists in Afghanistan and Chechnya with cash, recruits and equipment.

Lawyers for both al-Fawwaz and Bary noted the ailments of their clients and said they were concerned that they get their medication. The lawyers did not seek bail for their clients, though Bary's attorney reserved the right to do so in the future.

Ahsan, 33, and Ahmad, 38, were kept detained while they await trial in Connecticut, where an internet service provider was allegedly used to host a website. Their lawyers declined to comment.

Ahmad made efforts to secure GPS devices, Kevlar helmets, night-vision goggles, ballistic vests and camouflage uniforms, prosecutors said.

Abu Hamza will be housed in Manhattan along with Khaled al-Fawwaz, 50, a citizen of Saudi Arabia, and Adel Abdul Bary, 52, an Egyptian citizen, who will face trial on charges that they participated in the bombings of two US embassies in Africa in 1998. The attacks killed 224 people, including 12 Americans.

US Attorney Preet Bharara called the extraditions "a watershed moment in our nation's efforts to eradicate terrorism".

He added: "As is charged, these are men who were at the nerve centres of al Qaeda's acts of terror, and they caused blood to be shed, lives to be lost and families to be shattered."

In the 1990s, Abu Hamza turned London's Finsbury Park Mosque into a training ground for extremist Islamists, attracting men including September 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui and 'shoe bomber' Richard Reid.

In England, lawyers for the 54-year-old Abu Hamza, who has one eye and hooks in place of the hands he claims to have lost fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan, said he suffers from depression, chronic sleep deprivation, diabetes and other ailments.

The overnight trip to the United States came after a multi-year extradition fight that ended on Friday, when Britain's High Court ruled that the men had no more grounds for appeal and could be sent to the US immediately.

While Abu Hamza has been portrayed in the British media as one of the most dangerous men in the country, the case against Ahmad in Connecticut has raised concerns among legal experts and human rights advocates.

Some lawyers and lawmakers have expressed concerns because Britain agreed to extradite him even though his alleged crimes were committed in Britain and British courts declined to prosecute him for lack of evidence.

Ahmad and Ahsan are accused of running websites to support Afghanistan's ousted Taliban regime, Chechen rebels and associated terrorist groups.

In prison since 2004, Ahmad, a London computer expert, has been held without charge for the longest period of any British citizen detained since the September 11 attacks.

Sunday Independent

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