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Britain delays extraditing Muslim cleric to U.S.

/ Source: The Associated Press

Britain agreed Tuesday to delay the extradition of a radical Muslim preacher to face charges that he helped set up an al-Qaida terrorist training camp in Oregon.

The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France, ruled Monday that Abu Hamza al-Masri should not be extradited until judges can examine his case. Britain's Home Office said it would abide by the court's request.

U.S. officials accuse Abu Hamza, whose real name is Mustafa Kamal Mustafa, of conspiring to establish a training camp in Bly, Ore., where followers received combat and weapons training for violent jihad, or holy war, in Afghanistan.

They also say he helped the extremists who kidnapped 16 foreign tourists in Yemen in 1998. Three British tourists and one Australian visitor were killed in a shootout between Yemeni security forces and the captors.

Abu Hamza also is accused of facilitating terrorist training in Afghanistan.

Following the courts
In June, Britain's High Court ruled that he should be sent to the U.S. to face the charges. The House of Lords, Britain's highest court of appeal, upheld the ruling.

That prompted Abu Hamza to file an appeal with Europe's highest human rights court complaining that if extradited, he could be exposed to torture or inhumane treatment in the United States.

The Strasbourg court said Tuesday that it had asked Britain not to extradite Abu Hamza until it has given "due consideration to the matter."

"We understand that the European Court has today ordered that Abu Hamza's extradition should be stayed while it considers his appeal against extradition to the U.S.," Britain's Home Office said in a statement. "The decision is a matter for the European Court. The U.K. cannot extradite Hamza while the court has ordered his extradition to be stayed."

An e-mail seeking comment from Abu Hamza's London-based lawyer was not immediately returned Tuesday.

Moussaoui, Reid connection
A former imam at the British capital's Finsbury Park Mosque, Abu Hamza is one of the country's best-known Islamist radicals. The Egyptian-born Briton is blind in one eye and has hooks in place of the hands he says he lost fighting Soviet troops in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

Under his leadership, the Finsbury Park mosque became a magnet for extremists. Its worshippers included Sept. 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui and "shoe bomber" Richard Reid.

Abu Hamza was arrested in London on a U.S. extradition warrant in 2004, but the process was put on hold while he stood trial in Britain for inciting racial hatred and encouraging followers to kill non-Muslims. He was convicted in 2006 and is serving a seven-year sentence.

If extradited and convicted of the U.S. charges, he would not be allowed to be imprisoned there until completing his sentence in Britain.