Abu Hamza to appear in London court

Abu Hamza al-Masri, the Islamic cleric accused by the US of being a "freelance consultant" to anti-US government groups across the world, was to appear before a court in London Friday on extradition charges.

    Abu-Hamza leading prayers outside the closed Finsbury Park Mosque

    Egyptian-born Abu Hamza, 47, who is facing extradition to the United States on 11 "terrorism"-related charges, has been behind bars at London's high-security Belmarsh prison since his arrest in May on suspicion of carrying out a key role in Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaida network.

    Several of the charges relate to the seizure of 16 western
    tourists in Yemen in December 1998, two of whom were US citizens. 

    Four captives - three Britons and an Australian - were killed
    when Yemeni armed forces attempted a rescue. 

    Abu Hamza, whose real name is Mustafa Kamel Mustafa, was interrogated by British police in 1999 in connection with the incident, but no charges were brought.

    The hook-handed cleric gained fame after praising Bin Ladin
    and al-Qaida and calling for jihad, or an Islamic holy war, in sermons at a mosque in Finsbury Park, north London, that has since been closed. 

    He has always denied involvement in 'terrorism'. Home Secretary David Blunkett said at the end of May that he
    hoped extradition proceedings would be completed in a matter of weeks, under a new fast-track agreement between London and Washington.

    For Britain to allow the extradition, however, US authorities
    must pledge that Abu Hamza will not face the death penalty -- or if he is sentenced to death, that the sentence will not be carried out.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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