Radical Cleric, 4 Others, Finally Appear in US Court
Having fought extradition from Great Britain for more than a decade, Abu Hamza al-Masri appeared in a New York courtroom yesterday facing charges that he helped abduct 16 tourists -- including two Americans -- in Yemen back in 1998.
Two other terrorist suspects also appeared in court alongside Abu Hamza to answer charges they were involved in the US embassy bombings in Africa in 1998. An additional pair of suspects were arraigned in Connecticut on charges that they "made efforts to secure GPS devices, Kevlar helmets, night vision goggles, ballistic vests and camouflage uniforms, prosecutors said."
Al-Masri, a one-time nightclub bouncer, will be housed in Manhattan along with Khaled al-Fawwaz, 50, a citizen of Saudi Arabia, and Adel Abdul Bary, 52, an Egyptian citizen, who will face trial on charges that they participated in the bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa in 1998. The attacks killed 224 people, including 12 Americans. They were indicted in a case that also charged Osama bin Laden.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara called the extraditions "a watershed moment in our nation's efforts to eradicate terrorism."
He added: "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."
In the 1990s, al-Masri turned London's Finsbury Park Mosque into a training ground for extremist Islamists, attracting men including Sept. 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui and "shoe bomber" Richard Reid.
Al-Masri is not the first ailing Egyptian-born preacher to be brought to Manhattan for trial. A blind sheik, Omar Abdel-Rahman, is serving a life sentence after he was convicted in 1995 in a plot to assassinate then-Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and in another to blow up New York landmarks, including the United Nations and two tunnels and a bridge linking New Jersey to Manhattan. Abdel-Rahman has numerous health issues, including heart trouble.
British Prime Minister David Cameron breathed a sigh of relief:
"I'm absolutely delighted that Abu Hamza is now out of this country," British Prime Minister David Cameron said. "Like the rest of the public I'm sick to the back teeth of people who come here, threaten our country, who stay at vast expense to the taxpayer and we can't get rid of them."
"I'm delighted on this occasion we've managed to send this person off to a country where he will face justice," he added.
The delayed justice for these terrorists is unconscionable. With the assistance of western lawyers, they made a mockery of the legal system for almost a decade by using the peculiarities of our own justice system to avoid prosecution. The irony appears lost on many when those who seek to bring down our legal system can, with impunity, use the protections they would destroy to avoid paying for their crimes.
If ever there was a case that illustrated the efficacy of military tribunals to try terrorists, this is it.