Abu Hamza held on U.S. warrant

LONDON (Reuters) – Police have arrested radical Muslim cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri in a pre-dawn raid prompted by a U.S. extradition warrant that could lead to months of legal wrangling.

The fate of the cleric — who preaches holy war and openly admires Osama bin Laden — was unclear as Britain is already weighing its own charges and Yemen also seeks his extradition.

Security sources said British police had been studying the possibility of bringing charges for incitement to violence against the preacher who applauded the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington.

“This case could take months and months to sort out,” a senior security source told Reuters.

If he is to be extradited, Washington would have to guarantee the Egyptian-born cleric will not face the death penalty.

In Washington, a federal law enforcement official said a news conference was planned in New York at 3 p.m. on Thursday British time when U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft would announce what the charges are.

Abu Hamza — a hate figure for tabloids, who has one eye and a steel hook in place of his right hand after being wounded fighting in Afghanistan — was stripped of his UK nationality a year ago on allegations he supported terrorism.

He thus became the first person to have his British citizenship revoked after new measures were brought in last year to deport immigrants whose words or actions are deemed to “seriously prejudice” British interests.

Islam / Islamism

Islamism is a totalitarian ideology adhered to by Muslim extremists (e.g. the Taliban, Wahhabis, Hamas and Osama bin Laden). It is considered to be a distortion of Islam. Many Islamists engage in terrorism in pursuit of their goals.

Adherents of Islam are called “Muslims.” The term “Arab” describes an ethnic or cultural identity. Not all Arabs are Muslims, and not all Muslims are Arabs. The terms are not interchangeable.

Last month, he won nine more months to appeal against the decision. He denies any formal links to al Qaeda.


“We arrested a 47-year-old man at about three o’clock this morning,” a police spokeswoman said of the operation at his London home. Abu Hamza is to appear at a high-security London court later on Thursday.

Asked why he had not been arrested, the Crown Prosecution Service said that effectively the Americans had got there first.

“The position as of yesterday is that we were considering some material that the police had sent to us and were looking to see if there were grounds on which charges could have been brought,” a spokeswoman said.

Geoff Gilbert, professor of law at the University of Essex told Reuters there could be a long legal argument if Abu Hamza challenges the extradition request.

“If he wants to challenge it, I would say it would take somewhere between nine months and two years,” he told Reuters. If Britain also prosecutes, this would sink the case even further into a legal quagmire, he added.

British officials could not immediately clarify whether the U.S. or UK allegations against him would take precedence.

Yemen, where Abu Hamza’s son has served time in prison on terrorism charges, has also long sought his extradition.

“We have evidence he has been involved in terrorist attacks that took place in Yemen in 1998,” the country’s Foreign Minister Abubakr al-Qirbi told BBC radio.

After moving to Britain years ago and working as a doorman at London discos, Abu Hamza went to Afghanistan in the 1980s to help the Mujahideen fight Soviet occupation troops.

He lost both his forearms and an eye to an explosive device in that conflict. In the 1990s, he returned to the United Kingdom to preach radical Islam in London mosques.

He was shut out of his north London Finsbury Park mosque when it was raided by anti-terrorism police in January 2003 but simply switched to preaching on the street outside.

Vacation? Short break? Day trip? Get Skip-the-line tickets at GetYourGuide.


(Listed if other than Religion News Blog, or if not shown above)
Reuters, UK
May 27, 2004
Paul Majendie

Religion News Blog posted this on Thursday May 27, 2004.
Last updated if a date shows here:


More About This Subject

Topics: ,


Our website includes affiliate links, which means we get a small commission -- at no additional cost to you -- for each qualifying purpose. For instance, as an Amazon Associate, Religion News Blog earns from qualifying purchases. That is one reason why we can provide this research service free of charge.

Speaking of which: One way in which you can support us — at no additional cost to you — is by shopping at Amazon.com.