Page last updated at 14:36 GMT, Monday, 12 May 2008 15:36 UK

Hamza challenges US extradition

Abu Hamza
Abu Hamza is already serving a seven-year sentence

Jailed Muslim Cleric Abu Hamza has begun a High Court bid to block his extradition to the USA.

The Egyptian-born preacher is currently serving a seven-year jail term in the UK for inciting murder and race hate.

Hamza, 49, from west London, is wanted by American authorities on 11 charges, including sending cash to al-Qaeda.

But his lawyers insist that he should not be sent to stand trial in the US because evidence against him was obtained using torture.

They also argue that the passage of time since the alleged offences mean that it would be "unjust and oppressive" send Hamza abroad.

Listed at London's High Court under his real name, Mostafa Kamel Mostafa, he is taking part in the court bid via video link from Belmarsh prison, south-east London.

Potential jail sentence

The charges against him include allegations that he attempted to set up an al-Qaeda training camp in Oregon between 1998 and 2000, and that he sent funds and recruits to the Taleban.

He also stands accused of involvement in a conspiracy to take 12 westerners hostage in Yemen in 1998.

It is alleged Abu Hamza - who is missing an eye and hand - gave advice to the hostage-takers and provided them with a satellite phone.

Abu Hamza
Hamza's extradition was approved by the home secretary

Four of the captives - Britons Margaret Whitehouse, 52, a teacher from Hampshire; Ruth Williamson, 34, an NHS employee from Edinburgh; university lecturer Peter Rowe, 60, from Durham; and an Australian national, Andrew Thirsk - were killed after Yemeni authorities tried to rescue them.

The US charges carry a potential jail sentence of 100 years.

Hamza was convicted in February 2006 of 11 of the 15 charges he faced in the UK.

In addition to being jailed for soliciting murder, he was also found guilty of inciting racial hatred, possessing "threatening, abusive or insulting recordings" and for having a document useful to terrorists.

He was arrested on an extradition warrant issued by the US government in May 2004 but the process was put on hold while he stood trial in Britain and attempted to appeal against his UK convictions.

City of Westminster Magistrates Court approved the extradition, and in February 2008 the decision was ratified by the Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith.

Once tried in the US, Abu Hamza would have to return to the UK to complete his jail term before being extradited if any sentence was handed down to him by an American court.

The case, which is being heard by Sir Igor Judge and Mr Justice Sullivan, is due to last four days.





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