Last Modified: Tuesday, September 25, 2012 9:46 AM
LONDON (AP) — A European court ruled Monday that radical Muslim cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri can be extradited to the United States to face terrorism charges, including allegedly trying to set up an al-Qaida training camp in rural Oregon.
The decision ends a long-running legal battle and means that al-Masri, considered one of Britain's most notorious extremists, could be deported within weeks along with four other terrorism suspects in Britain.
Al-Masri and the others had argued before the European Court of Human Rights that they could face prison conditions and jail terms in the U.S. that would expose them to "torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment" in breach of the European human rights code.
In April, the Strasbourg, France-based court rejected those claims. Al-Masri and the four others lodged an appeal, but on Monday the court said it refused to hear it. "Today the Grand Chamber Panel decided to reject the request," the court said in a brief statement. It did not give a reason for refusing the appeal.
Britain's Home Office and the U.S. Department of Justice welcomed the decision. "We will work to ensure that the individuals are handed over to the U.S. authorities as quickly as possible," said the Home Office.
The suspects, who are accused of crimes such as raising funds for terrorists, could face life sentences in a maximum-security prison.
Al-Masri was arrested in Britain in 2004 at the request of U.S. authorities, who accuse him of assisting the taking of 16 hostages in Yemen in 1998 and of conspiring to set up a terrorist training camp in Bly, Oregon, between 2000 and 2001. He is also accused of preaching jihad â€” holy war â€” in Afghanistan.
The cleric, who is blind in one eye and wears a hook for a hand, lost several British court cases in his fight against extradition before taking the case to the European court in 2008.
Known for his fiery anti-Western and anti-Semitic outbursts, he claims he has lost his Egyptian nationality, but Britain considers him an Egyptian citizen. He is currently serving a seven-year prison term in Britain for separate charges of inciting hatred.
The other four suspects to be extradited to the U.S. are Babar Ahmad and Syed Tahla Ahsan, accused of running a terrorist website in London; and Khaled al-Fawwaz and Adel Abdul Bary, accused of being key aides to Osama bin Laden in London. Al-Fawwaz and Bary are wanted over the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 people.
The human rights court said that it has not decided on the appeal by a sixth suspect, Haroon Rashid Aswat, who was accused of being Al-Masri's co-conspirator in attempting to set up the camp in Oregon. The court said it needed to consider more information about his case.
In Washington, Dean Boyd, spokesman for the National Security Division of the U.S. justice department, said: "We are pleased that the litigation before the European Court of Human Rights in these cases has come to an end, and we will be working with the U.K. authorities on the arrangements to bring these subjects to the United States for prosecution."