updated 8/20/2004 5:53:19 AM ET 2004-08-20T09:53:19

A lawyer for a radical Muslim cleric facing a U.S. extradition warrant complained Friday that his health was suffering from the lack of proper food and facilities in prison.

The cleric, Abu Hamza al-Masri, “is a disabled person, and obviously prison is not designed to cope with a person’s disabilities,” attorney Mudassar Arani told reporters.

Al-Masri, who has lost both hands and an eye, made a brief appearance Friday in Bow Street Magistrates Court by video link from Belmarsh prison, but spoke only to confirm his name and date of birth. A further appearance was set for Sept. 17, and a full hearing on the U.S. application for extradition was scheduled for Oct. 19.

Arani said she planned to apply for Al-Masri’s release on bail, but made no application Friday.

Outside court, she complained about the food given to Muslim prisoners at Belmarsh, a high-security prison in southeast London. She also represents some of the eight terrorist suspects charged this week with a murder conspiracy and a plot to use chemical, biological or radioactive agents.

She said the food is not “halal” — prepared according to Muslim dietary laws.

“It came to a stage where on the menus it stated the food was halal, but if you went down the menu it said spicy pork chops.” Arani said. Pork is forbidden to Muslims.

As a result, she added, some Muslim prisoners had shunned meat entirely and their health was suffering as a result.

Well-known radical
Al-Masri, former chief preacher at London’s Finsbury Park Mosque and Britain’s best-known Islamic radical, was arrested May 27 following an American extradition request. The 10-count indictment accuses him of trying to establish a terrorist training camp in Oregon, being involved in hostage taking in Yemen and funding terrorism training in Afghanistan.

His lawyers argue he will not receive a fair hearing in the United States because President Bush has prejudiced any trial by publicly calling him a terrorism supporter. They also say some American evidence against the preacher may have been obtained from tortured witnesses.

Al-Masri, a native of Egypt who is fighting the government’s decision to strip him of his British citizenship, is also wanted in Yemen on charges of hostage-taking and conspiracy in connection with a December 1998 incident that left four tourists dead.

Al-Masri, 47, preached at Finsbury Park Mosque in north London until he was ousted by the governors last year. He reportedly has been linked to several terrorist suspects, including Sept. 11 suspect Zacarias Moussaoui and “shoe bomber” Richard Reid.

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