NEW YORK - Radical cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri arrived early Saturday in New York after losing a years-long legal battle in Britain to avoid extradition to the United States to face a series of terror charges, officials said.
The Egyptian-born Abu Hamza, 54, is accused by Washington of supporting Al-Qaeda, aiding a kidnapping in Yemen and plotting to open a training camp for militants in the United States.
Al-Masri was one of five men who departed England late Friday, hours after the High Court in London ruled the men could be extradited ‘immediately’.
Two planes carrying the men left the British Air Force base Mildenhall so they could face trial in the United States, according to CNN. Al-Masri will make an initial appearance before a judge Saturday, and will be arraigned Tuesday, officials said.
Separately, Khaled al-Fawwaz and Adel Abdul Bary will also appear before a judge on Saturday and be arraigned Tuesday.
The trio were being held at New York’s Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan ahead of their first scheduled court appearances, CNN said, citing a federal law enforcement source. Two others, Babar Ahmad and Talha Ahsan, pleaded not guilty Saturday morning before a judge in New Haven, Connecticut, according to the US Attorney’s office there.
The US attorney office in New York said Hamza was expected to face a judge in New York within 24 hours after civilian US jets flew him to America.
Abu Hamza arrived at Westchester County Airport, New York State, at about 2.30 am local time, and was taken to a lockup next to the federal courthouse in lower Manhattan.
“The defendants entered not guilty pleas and acquiesced to the government’s motions for pretrial detention, said Tom Carson, spokesman for the US Attorney’s office.
“The extraditions of Abu Hamza, Bary and Fawwaz are a major milestone in our effort to see these alleged high-level terrorists face American justice,” said FBI New York acting assistant director-in-charge Mary Galligan. “When an indictment alleges the murderous intent of international terrorists, the government will not waver in its determination to achieve justice, no matter how long it takes.”
AFP adds: A US judge ordered that the radical Muslim preacher Abu Hamza be kept in detention, after a brief court hearing Saturday in New York where the terror suspect was told of the 11 charges he faces.
Hamza, who lacked his trademark hook on the stump of his right arm, did not speak at the hearing which followed his extradition from Britain and was a prelude to a formal arraignment due Tuesday where he will be formally charged.
“You have the right to remain silent,” magistrate judge Frank Maas told the accused before summarizing the charges.
Sabrina Shroff, a lawyer for the self-avowed cleric, requested he be given special shoes without which “he will not be able to function in a civilised way” and requested medical care on account of his diabetes. 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.
Ahead of Saturday’s hearing US officials hailed the extradition of Hamza and two other terror suspects as a key victory in its battle against Al-Qaeda.
“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 in a statement.
“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.”