Source AP ©

America claims for extradition of radical Islamic cleric

America, demanding the extradition of radical Islamic cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri, blamed him for involvement in a global conspiracy to wage terrorist attacks on the United States and other Western countries.

"He advocated the defense of Islam through unlawful, violent and armed aggression in order to influence the U.S. government," Hugo Keith, a lawyer representing the U.S. government, said during a hearing in a London court.

Al-Masri is serving a seven-year sentence in Britain for fomenting racial hatred and urging his followers to kill non-Muslims.

He has also been charged in the United States on an 11-count indictment with trying to establish a terrorist training camp in Oregon, conspiring to take hostages in Yemen and facilitating terrorist training in Afghanistan.

Al-Masri was arrested on an extradition warrant issued by the United States in May 2004, but that process was put on hold while he stood trial in Britain and then attempted to appeal his convictions.

But after the House of Lords decided in January to refuse al-Masri permission to make further appeals, his extradition proceedings went back on the agenda.

"The general allegation is that Mr. Hamza is a member of a global conspiracy to wage jihad against the U.S. and other Western countries," Keith said during the extradition hearing at the high-security Woolwich Crown Court. "Jihad carried out in numerous parts of the world - the U.K., Afghanistan, Yemen and U.S."

Al-Masri's lawyer Alun Jones said that he believed the extradition application should fail because he believed some of the evidence against the cleric was extracted by torture.

"The court ought to conduct here an inquiry," he said. "There is reasonable cause to suspect this extradition request is founded in significant parts on evidence obtained by torture ... This means the extradition request constitutes an abuse of process of the court and shouldn't be received."

Outlining the U.S. case, Keith said Hamza provided a satellite phone and 500 hours of airtime to a group responsible for the 1998 kidnapping of 16 western tourists in Yemen. Four of the tourists died following a shootout between the abductors and Yemeni security officials in the southern province of Abyan.

Keith said the U.S. training camp planned for Oregon would have been used to prepare recruits to "kill enemies of Islam" in Afghanistan, training them in weapons use, hand-to-hand combat and martial arts.

Keith also gave the court details of another indictment which claims that al-Masri had funded travel to Afghanistan for two men - a former British Guantanamo Bay detainee, Ugandan-born Feroz Abbasi, and American James Ujaama, who in April 2003 pleaded guilty to plotting to set up the training camp in Bly, Oregon.

The hearing had been expected to start on Wednesday but al-Masri, former head preacher at London's Finsbury Park Mosque, was recovering from an operation to remove a bone from one of his arm's stumps. He lost both arms below the elbows and an eye fighting the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s.

Today, he has hooks for hands and a glass eye.

U.S. authorities want al-Masri sent to the United States to stand trial. If convicted in the U.S., he would return to Britain to serve the rest of his sentence before being sent back to serve any sentence handed down in a U.S. court.