Preacher tries to block extradition to U.S.

/ Source: The Associated Press

An Islamic preacher accused of trying to establish a terrorist training camp in Oregon asked a British court on Wednesday to block his extradition to the U.S.

Earlier this month, Britain's Home Office approved the extradition of Abu Hamza al-Masri, who once led London's Finsbury Park Mosque.

A top British counterterrorism official has called the mosque a "honey pot for extremists." Its worshippers have included Sept. 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui and "shoe bomber" Richard Reid.

On Wednesday, al-Masri's lawyer, Muddassar Arani, challenged the extradition order by filing an appeal in Britain's High Court.

She said British courts should be allowed to examine the evidence in the U.S. case against her client before an extradition.

The Egyptian-born al-Masri was arrested in Britain on a U.S. extradition warrant in 2004, but the process was put on hold while he stood trial here and appealed his convictions.

Al-Masri, 49, has one eye and hooks for hands, which he says were lost fighting Soviet troops in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

He already has been sentenced to seven years' imprisonment in Britain for fomenting racial hatred and urging his followers to kill non-Muslims.

If convicted in America, Al-Masri would carry out the rest of his sentence in Britain before serving any prison term in the U.S.

U.S. officials allege he conspired to establish a jihad training camp in Oregon and sent two supporters to view facilities there.

They also allege al-Masri took part in a deadly hostage-taking incident in Yemen in 1998 involving 16 tourists. Three British tourists and one Australian visitor were killed in a shootout between Yemeni security forces and the Islamic extremist captors.

Al-Masri also is accused of facilitating terrorist training in Afghanistan.

He became a high-profile radical and outraged people by supporting Osama bin Laden and saying the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq was part of a wider war on Islam.

After he was expelled from the mosque by administrators in 2003, he led Friday prayers on the street outside until his arrest the next year.