NEW YORK, Oct 6, 2012 (AFP) -
NEW YORK, Oct 6, 2012 (AFP) –
Radical Islamist preacher Abu Hamza was due in court Saturday in New York to face terror charges and other allegations in what the United States hailed as a key victory in its battle against Al-Qaeda.
Two other terror suspects who, like Hamza, were extradited overnight pleaded not guilty in a court appearance in Connecticut, an official said.
Hamza, the Egyptian-born former imam, was removed from prison and flown out of a British military airbase late Friday in the latest chapter of a legal saga that has dragged on for more than a decade as he fought extradition on grounds that he was unfit to stand trial in America.
Hamza, 54, will face terrorism charges over a kidnapping in 1998 in Yemen, the establishment of a terrorist training camp in the United States, and for “facilitating violent jihad in Afghanistan,” the Department of Justice said.
Altogether, five men were flown to the US overnight.
The final two facing terror charges in a separate case are Khaled Al-Fawwaz, a 50-year-old Saudi, and Adel Abdul Bary, a 52 year-old Egyptian.
Hamza was to appear before a judge Saturday in Manhattan, with his formal arraignment scheduled for Tuesday.
A US official welcomed the extradition of him, Fawwaz and Bary.
“As is charged, these are men who were at the nerve centers of Al-Qaeda’s acts of terror, and they caused blood to be shed, lives to be lost, and families to be shattered,” US Attorney Preet Bahara said.
“After years of protracted legal battles, the extradition of these three alleged terrorists to the United States is a watershed moment in our nation’s efforts to eradicate terrorism.”
Abu Hamza rose to prominence after giving fiery sermons at the Finsbury Park mosque in north London, but has been in prison in Britain for eight years after being convicted of soliciting murder and inciting racial hatred.
His date with American justice, and those of Bary and Fawwaz, “makes good on a promise to the American people to use every available diplomatic, legal, and administrative tool to pursue and prosecute charged terrorists no matter how long it takes,” Bahara said.
Bary and Fawwaz are charged with conspiring with members of Al-Qaeda to kill US nationals and to attack US interests abroad.
Bary is also charged with murder, conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction and other offenses in connection with the 1998 bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Those blasts destroyed the buildings, killing 224 people and injuring thousands more.
Abu Hamza, who is well-known for having a hook for a right hand, failed to convince British judges that his extradition should be blocked in order for medical tests to be carried out over his alleged depression.
The judges said they were “wholly unpersuaded” that he was unfit to face trial, and added that “the sooner he is put on trial the better” and dismissed arguments that the US jail he was heading to would breach his human rights.
The two men who were arraigned Saturday in New Haven, Connecticut, and pleaded not guilty are Babar Ahmad and Syed Talha Ahsan, both British citizens.
Tom Carson, a spokesman for the US attorney’s office, said they were ordered to be held in custody and another hearing is scheduled for October 15.
Ahmad, 38, and Ahsan, 33, both British citizens, are charged with terror-related offenses stemming from their involvement in “Azzam Publications” in London, which allegedly provided material support to the Chechen Muhjahedeen, the Taliban, and associated terrorist groups, Fein said. IThey were arrested in 2004 and 2006, respectively.