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Last Updated:  Sunday, 6 April, 2003, 04:36 GMT 05:36 UK
Yemen demands cleric's extradition
Sheikh Abu Hamza
Sheikh Abu Hamza praised Osama Bin Laden
Yemen has renewed its request for the extradition of controversial radical Muslim cleric Sheikh Abu Hamza after he was stripped of his UK citizenship.

Home Secretary David Blunkett confirmed on Saturday: "I have sent him a letter withdrawing his citizenship."

Yemen has repeatedly demanded the handover of Egyptian-born Abu Hamza, accusing him of involvement in the 1998 kidnapping of foreigners in Yemen.

He is also allegedly linked to an extremist group calling itself the Aden-Abyan Islamic Army.

"The extradition request was relayed to the British government by the Yemeni embassy in London," a government official said.

Parliament voted for this to make holding our citizenship worth something
Home Secretary David Blunkett

Tabloid newspapers and a number of MPs have pushed for Mr Hamza's removal from the country as he has angered many with praise for Osama Bin Laden and condemnation of Britain, the US and Israel.

The preacher has 10 days to appeal.

Mr Blunkett said any appeal would focus on "the way in which people are encouraged to take part in the jihad and fight us overseas".

"I want to deal with people who our intelligence and security people believe are a risk to us," he added.

"If you encourage, support, advise, help people to take up training, if you facilitate them, then, of course, that takes you right over the boundary."

New powers

The move follows the introduction of new powers earlier this week allowing British nationality to be removed from people with dual citizenship who are believed to have acted against the vital interests of the UK.

Mr Blunkett told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "Parliament voted for this to make holding our citizenship worth something.

"People will have to work to earn it and they will be proud to have it.

"And I'm proud to have done that."

Shadow home secretary Oliver Letwin said it was "important to protect the civil liberties of the country".

Terror suspicion

In 1999 Abu Hamza was questioned by Scotland Yard detectives over the Yemen charges.

He was held for several days before being released without charge. He has always maintained his innocence.

He came to real public prominence in the aftermath of 11 September when he praised the terrorist attacks on the US.

Egyptian-born, he has lived in the UK since 1979, gaining British citizenship back in 1981.

A former Soho nightclub bouncer, Mr Hamza has become the controversial face of radical Islam in the UK.

He was a regular preacher at the Finsbury Park mosque in North London until his suspension by the Charity Commission last April.

His lawyer, Maddrassar Arani, said stripping him of British citizenship would leave him stateless and would therefore be a breach of his human rights.

Ms Arani told World at One: "Sheikh Abu Hamza doesn't have dual nationality. He can't be rendered stateless. If they do that, they will be in breach of the [Nationality, Immigration and Asylum] Act itself."

Home Office lawyers disagree and believe Mr Hamza's Egyptian nationality has never been revoked.

As a result under section four of the Asylum, Immigration and Nationality Act 2002 the radical cleric could be stripped of his citizenship.

Human rights campaigners have said Mr Hamza should be given the chance to refute any allegations against him in court.

Shami Chakrabati, a senior lawyer for Liberty told BBC radio Five Live: "There is still a principle that people should face open justice.

"If they have done something wrong, let the evidence be put to them, let them be prosecuted and let justice have its course," she said.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Margaret Gilmore
"There is little doubt that these new laws were designed with Abu Hamza in mind"



SEE ALSO:
Banned cleric leads prayers
08 Feb 03  |  England
Profile: Abu Hamza
17 Jan 03  |  UK News
Muslim cleric ousted at mosque
04 Feb 03  |  UK News
Mosque closed to worshippers
24 Jan 03  |  England


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