Last Updated: Mon Nov 01, 2010 20:41 pm (KSA) 17:41 pm (GMT)

Abu Hamza fights extradition to US

He is accused of trying to set up an al-Qaeda training camp in Oregon (File)
He is accused of trying to set up an al-Qaeda training camp in Oregon (File)

Lawyers for the radical Muslim preacher Abu Hamza al-Masri, convicted in Britain of race-hate crimes and soliciting murder, began a legal challenge Monday against his extradition to the United States.

The Egyptian-born former imam of the once notorious Finsbury Park mosque in north London is wanted for allegedly trying to set up an al-Qaeda training camp in the northwest U.S. state of Oregon.

But his legal team is arguing at London's High Court that his extradition, which was signed by Home Secretary Jacqui Smith in February this year, should be blocked as evidence gained by torture was being used against him.

Lawyer Alun Jones told the court in written arguments that his client should be tried in London, not the United States, because he was living here at the time of the alleged offences.

A "genuinely independent criminal justice system" would regard that as "proper and just", he said, arguing that the extradition request was "tainted by torture and oppression".

He also said it would be "unjust and oppressive" to send Hamza for trial in the United States because of the passage of time since the alleged offences while the U.S. authorities could not guarantee his human rights.

Hamza, 49, a former nightclub bouncer who has one eye and a hook in place of a missing hand, is facing a maximum sentence of up to 100 years in prison over 11 charges, including sending money and recruits to assist Afghanistan's hardline former rulers the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

He is also accused of assisting a gang of kidnappers in Yemen who abducted a 16-strong party of Western tourists in 1998. Four people -- three Britons and an Australian -- were killed.

The firebrand preacher followed the first day of proceedings via videolink from Belmarsh high security prison in southeast London, where is serving a seven-year sentence for inciting followers to kill non-believers.

The hearing was listed under his real name -- Mostafa Kamel Mostafa. It is due to last four days with the verdict likely to be given at a later date.

Hamza, jailed in 2006, was never linked directly to any specific terrorism plots, but police said his Finsbury Park Mosque in London had acted as a base for militants.

The men that carried out the deadly London bombings in July 2005 were said to have been inspired by his sermons, while his mosque attracted the likes of convicted "shoebomber" Richard Reid and jailed Sept. 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui.

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