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Wall Street Journal: U.K. Allows Terror Suspects’ Extradition to U.S.

Wall Street Journal – By DEVLIN BARRETT And EVAN PEREZ

Federal agents were preparing Friday to fly five long-sought terrorism suspects to the U.S. to face charges, after a British court rejected a final appeal by the men seeking to block extradition from England.

The suspects include two men wanted in connection with the 1998 bombing of U.S. embassies in Africa and the radical cleric known as Abu Hamza, who is accused of trying to create a terrorist training camp in Oregon.

After years of diplomatic talks dating back to the Clinton and Bush administrations, U.K. officials agreed to extradition on the condition that the U.S. try the men in civilian courts and that prosecutors not seek the death penalty.

Three of the men have been indicted in New York federal court and the other two in Connecticut. Republican lawmakers have criticized the Obama administration over earlier civilian trials of terrorism suspects, saying military courts are better-suited to that task.

However, Rep. Peter King (R., N.Y.), one of the most ardent GOP critics of President Barack Obama's policy on terrorism detainees, said Friday he was satisfied with the handling of the five U.K. suspects. "I'd prefer they'd be tried in military court, but the British wouldn't have released them there," said Mr. King. "We have more capability than Britain in keeping them in prison for a long time."

According to officials familiar with the case, a Federal Bureau of Investigation plane has been in place to transport the men to the U.S. The British court on Friday rejected various arguments brought by the five to block extradition.

The most prominent suspect in the group is Mustafa Kamel Mustafa, who was known as Abu Hamza al-Masri during his tenure as imam at the Finsbury Park mosque in London.

A spokesman for U.K. Home Secretary Theresa May said: "We welcome the High Court decision on Abu Hamza and others. We are now working to extradite these men as quickly as possible."

A 2004 indictment filed in New York accuses Mr. Hamza of a kidnapping conspiracy in Yemen in 1998 that led to the deaths of four hostages. He also allegedly attempted to set up a terrorist training camp in Bly, Ore., in 1999 and 2000.

In separate proceedings in Britain, a jury found Mr. Hamza guilty in 2006 of using his sermons to incite murder and racial hatred. He was handed a seven-year sentence and has been in a U.K. prison.

Mr. Hamza, 54 years old, was born in Egypt and worked as a bouncer at a London nightclub before turning toward radical Islam. In the 1990s, he traveled to Pakistan and Afghanistan, and when he returned to England he had lost both hands and an eye.

Counterterrorism officials say the Finsbury mosque attracted young men willing to engage in violent jihad, including "shoe bomber" Richard Reid and Zacarias Moussaoui, convicted of being part of the Sept. 11, 2001, conspiracy. Both men are currently imprisoned in Colorado.

Among the others to be flown to the U.S. are Khalid al Fawwaz, 50, who has been fighting extradition for 14 years since he was charged with operating the London media office of al Qaeda at the direction of Osama bin Laden. U.S. officials say the purpose of the office was to publicize Mr. bin Laden's statements and to provide cover for the group's terrorism activities. Both he and Adel Abdel Bary, 52, were charged with conspiracy in connection with the 1998 attacks on U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 people, including 12 Americans.

Also in the group of five suspects is Babar Ahmad, 38, who was first arrested in 2004. He is accused of using websites to gather money and material for the Taliban and terrorist groups. Also, Mr. Ahmad is accused of communicating with a sailor in the U.S. Navy and encouraging him to betray his fellow crew members and his country.

Syed Talha Ahsan, 33, was charged along with Mr. Ahmad in running the terrorist fundraising website, among others. The two are accused of conspiring to kill, kidnap, maim, or injure people or damage property in a foreign country.

Lawyers for Mr. Fawwaz and Mr. Abdel Bary have argued there is new evidence that undermines the charges against them. Mr. Hamza has said he isn't medically fit to face trial.

The other two suspects have argued that they can't be extradited to the U.S. for charges they say they could still face in Britain.