Five suspected terrorists extradited overnight from Britain, including Muslim cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri, are expected to appear in U.S. courtrooms within 24 hours.
Two U.S. planes arrived in the U.S. early Saturday, having departed a British Royal Air Force base immediately after the High Court rejected last-minute appeals by Hamza and the others. The five had raised legal questions about human rights and prison conditions they expected to face in the United States. In rejecting the appeals, the British court cited an “overwhelming public interest” in seeing the extraditions carried out.
Hamza is wanted on U.S. charges that include conspiring to set up a terrorist training camp in the state of Oregon. He also is accused of helping abduct 16 hostages, including two Americans, in Yemen in 1998. Four people died in the hostage-taking incident.
Two other suspects aboard the flights, Adel Abdul Bary and Khaled al-Fawwaz, are wanted for their alleged roles in the bombings of two U.S. embassies in east Africa in 1998. Al-Fawwaz faces more than 260 counts of murder.
The final two cases — those of computer experts Babar Ahmad and Syed Talha Ahsan — are particularly sensitive because both men are accused of operating a website to provide support to terrorists. Critics of the ruling say they should remain in Britain because they are British citizens and were operating the website from Britain.
Ahmad's father, Ashfaq Ahmad, was among a group of protesters gathered outside the court Friday. He made a speech saying his son's extradition would be “forever remembered as a shameful chapter in the history of Britain.”
“The system has let me down in a manner more befitting of a third world country than one of the world's oldest democracies.”
Ashfaq Ahmad also told reporters that while he now fears for his son's well-being, the final ruling came as no surprise.
Both British and European courts had earlier ruled in favor of the extraditions, triggering the appeals that were rejected Friday.