LONDON — Radical preacher Abu Hamza al-Masri and four other terror suspects who have fought for years to avoid facing charges in the United States have no more grounds for appeal and can be extradited immediately, Britain's High Court ruled Friday.
The U.S. Embassy said it was pleased with the decision, and the British government said it planned to put the men on planes to the United States "as quickly as possible."
Judges John Thomas and Duncan Ousely rejected last-ditch applications by al-Masri, Khaled al-Fawwaz, Babar Ahmad, Adel Abdul Bary and Syed Ahsan, who have been battling extradition for between eight and 14 years.
Thomas said there were no grounds for any further delay, noting that it was "in the interest of justice that those accused of very serious crimes, as each of these claimants is in these proceedings, are tried as quickly as possible as is consistent with the interests of justice."
"It follows that their extradition to the United States of America may proceed immediately," the judge said.
Al-Masri, who turned London's Finsbury Park Mosque into a training ground for radical Islamists during the 1990s, is wanted in the U.S. on charges that include conspiring to set up a terrorist training camp in Oregon.
He and the four other men have sought to avoid extradition by raising concerns about human rights and the conditions they would face in U.S. jails. Both British and European courts have ruled that they can be sent to the U.S. to face charges.
They applied to the High Court for a last-minute halt, with al-Masri's lawyers saying his deteriorating physical and mental health meant it would be "oppressive" to send him to a U.S. prison.
Lawyers for the 54-year-old preacher, who has one eye and hooks in place of hands he claims to have lost fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan, said he suffers from depression, chronic sleep deprivation, diabetes and other ailments.
The Egyptian-born former nightclub bouncer used Finsbury Park Mosque as a base to persuade young Muslims to take up the cause of holy war. The mosque was once attended by Sept. 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui and "shoe bomber" Richard Reid.
He is wanted in the U.S. on multiple terrorism-related charges, including helping abduct 16 hostages, including two American tourists, in Yemen in 1998.
He has been in a British jail since 2004 on separate charges of inciting racial hatred and encouraging followers to kill non-Muslims.
Ahmad, a London computer expert, is accused in the United States of running terrorist-funding websites. He and Ahsan both face charges including using a website to provide support to terrorists and conspiracy to kill, kidnap, maim or injure persons or damage property in a foreign country.
Some lawyers and human rights advocates have expressed concerns about Ahmad's case, because Britain agreed to extradite him even though his alleged crimes were committed in Britain, and British courts declined to prosecute him for lack of evidence.
In prison since 2004, he has been held without charge for the longest period of any British citizen detained since the Sept. 11 attacks.
In a statement read on his behalf outside court, Ahmad said that his case had exposed flaws in U.S.-U.K. extradition arrangements. "I leave with my head held high, having won the moral victory," he said.
Bary and al-Fawwaz were indicted with others, including Osama bin Laden, for their alleged roles in the bombings of two U.S. embassies in east Africa in 1998. Al-Fawwaz faces more than 269 counts of murder.
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