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Monday, January 25, 1999 Published at 23:38 GMT

World: Middle East

British cleric resists Yemen extradition

Detainees' relatives at Heathrow prepare to fly to Yemen

A militant Islamic leader based in Britain has vowed to fight a bid to extradite him to Yemen for trial on terrorist charges. Abu Hamza al-Masr's pledge to stay in the UK comes as relatives of five British detainees - including his stepson - prepared to fly out to Yemen.

Yemeni authorities asked Britain to extradite Mr al-Masri to answer charges of committing subversive acts in Yemen.

President Ali Abdullah Saleh asked for Prime Minister Tony Blair's help in securing Hamza's extradition at a meeting with British ambassador Vic Henderson in the capital, Sana'a, earlier on Monday.

Mr al-Masri, head of the London-based Supporters of Sharia (Islamic law), is accused by Yemen of being involved with a group whose members are on trial in Yemen for kidnapping 16 foreigners.

[ image: Al Masri:
Al Masri: "No fair trial"
He has admitted links with the group and warned that Westerners in Yemen could be killed if they are found guilty and executed.

The cleric said he would not receive a fair trial in Yemen and would fight the extradition attempt.

"If the president wants you there will be no fair trial, he has already tried you," the cleric said. "The record of Yemen in human rights is not good. It makes it very cheeky for them to ask to try me."

His 18-year-old stepson, Mohsin Ghalain, is one of the five British men due to go on trial in Yemen on Wednesday on charges of planning to commit acts of terrorism.

The five have denied the charges.

Detainees' families fly out

On Monday night their relatives flew out to Yemen not knowing if they would be allowed to see their loved ones.

As they arrived at Heathrow Airport family members and supporters had still not secured visas to enter Yemen.

The eight-strong party includes a doctor, lawyers and relatives.

The group hopes to arrive in the Sana'a in time for the start of the men's trial on Wednesday.

Ghulam Hussein, Shahid Butt, Malik Nassar Harhra, Samad Ahmed, and Mohsin Ghalain, all from the Midlands, were arrested on 23 December after police swooped on a car, two hotels and a villa in Aden.

Yemeni police said they found two rockets, land mines, explosives, a hand grenade and training videos in the raids. They claim the suspects were on a bombing mission intending to attack Aden's Christian church and blow up the British Consulate as well as hitting other targets.

Police alleged the motive was revenge for British and United States attacks on Iraq. But the families of the men say they are innocent.

British diplomatic efforts are trying to secure visas for the group and a British Consulate official is due to meet the party at Sana'a.

'We pray we will find something good'

Rashid Butt, from Small Heath, Birmingham, the brother of Shahid, said: "We have been looking for a light for the last few weeks and we're hoping to find it now. We just pray to God we are going to find something good out there.

"Hopefully we are going to tell the whole world the truth about what is happening. A lot of people have closed their eyes to this and don't understand that our relatives have been tortured."

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