Britain to extradite radical Islamist cleric to U.S.
By Stephen Eisenhammer
LONDON (Reuters) - Britain said it would seek to extradite Islamist cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri to the United States as soon as possible after the one-eyed radical preacher failed in a last-ditch legal attempt to avoid deportation on Friday.
Washington accuses the Egyptian-born 54-year-old of supporting al Qaeda, aiding a kidnapping in Yemen and plotting to open a U.S. training camp for militants.
Abu Hamza, who has a metal hook for a hand, also achieved notoriety for praising the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.
Judges at the High Court in London dismissed his request to delay the proceedings in order to allow him undergo more medical tests that his lawyers said would prove he was unfit to be extradited, clearing the way for an immediate handover.
"Extradition may proceed immediately," said Judge John Thomas. Four other suspects have also lost their appeals against extradition to the U.S.
Britain's Home Office (interior ministry) said in a statement after the judgment: "We welcome the Court's decision and are working to extradite these men as quickly as possible."
A crowd of about 100 people protested outside the court, shouting "Free Abu Hamza" and holding banners reading "Stop extraditions" and "democracy = hypocrisy."
Abu Hamza, who could be sent to an ultra-secure "Supermax" prison with a sentence of more than 100 years, has argued that he faces inhumane treatment in the United States.
The cleric was once a preacher at a North London mosque but was later convicted in Britain of inciting murder and racial hatred.
The decision caps a long legal battle, which saw him launch a fresh appeal at the High Court last week after the European Court of Human Rights rejected an earlier bid to avoid being sent to the United States.
Abu Hamza was jailed for seven years in Britain and has been fighting extradition since 2004.
(Reporting by Stephen Eisenhammer; Writing by Maria Golovnina)
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