Calls to extradite Abu Hamza renewed [Archives:2003/646/Front Page]

June 30 2003

London, 28 June – Yemen has renewed its request to the British authorities to extradite Abu Hamza Al-Masri to face charges related to several terrorist activities in Yemen.
According to ITV, the written request came as Abu Hamza's solicitors vowed to fight a bid by British Home Secretary David Blunkett to strip him of his British citizenship as a prelude to deportation to Egypt, where he was born.
Yemen's request includes documents alleging that the north London cleric was involved in a 1998 kidnap of tourists by the so-called Islamic Jihad, which was then known as the Aden-Abyan Islamic Army of Aden. A rescue attempt by government forces then resulted in the death of four westerners, including three Britons. However, nothing was mentioned about assurances that Abu Hamza will not be tried and executed if found guilty.
British officials said that “It is standard practice never to confirm whether a request has been received.”
As a general rule, requests linked to charges which might lead to capital punishment are accepted only if a written assurance is given by the country involved that the death penalty will not be imposed. It is believed that the Yemeni paperwork issued yesterday in the capital Sana'a has not yet been received in the UK.
Attempts to deport radical Muslim cleric Abu Hamza will take “months not weeks” to push through the courts, a Home Office source has admitted.
The proceedings to have the controversial cleric removed from Britain comes under new powers which came into effect earlier this week.
The Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act allows the Government to remove the UK citizenship of a holder of joint citizenship if it is believed their activities threaten the national interests of the country.
Mr. Blunkett confirmed he had sent Abu Hamza a letter informing him of the decision and indicated that security and intelligence information had persuaded him to use the Act for the first time.
But the Home Office privately admitted that the test case for Hamza's removal would not be resolved in a matter of weeks.
An initial 10-day appeal period is likely to be extended as his lawyers attempt to “throw every available spanner in the works”.
Sources at the Home Office also confirmed privately that they were clear Hamza's nationality was Egyptian, an issue of intense debate in recent months.
His nationality had been looked into carefully before the process to strip him of his British citizenship had begun, the sources said.
Announcing his decision Mr Blunkett said the action against Hamza did not herald a series of expulsions of radical Islamists.
Asked if he planned to strip any other radical Islamists of their citizenship, he said: “I am certainly not speculating on that. We are not starting a hunt for people with dual citizenship.”
Mr Blunkett insisted that the action against the one-eyed 44-year-old was due to his having urged followers to attack British interests abroad, and not simply because he was an outspoken critic of the UK Government.
“We are not talking about a bigmouth shouting off,” he said. “Irritating though that is, they have the right to do so.”
He added: “The evidence that would have to be adduced if this man appeals and his lawyers decide to challenge us would be about the way in which people are encouraged to take part in jihad and are encouraged to fight us overseas and issues of that sort.
“If you encourage, support, advise, help people to take up training, if you facilitate them, then of course that takes you right over the boundary.”