An extremist preacher with  hooks for hands and four other terrorism suspects arrived in the  United States  from England early on Saturday morning under tight security to face  trial.

Abu Hamza al-Masri  appeared in court for the first hearing over charges that he conspired to set up  a terrorist training camp in Oregon and that he  helped abduct 16 hostages, two  of them American tourists, in Yemen in  1998.

He entered no plea in the  Manhattan court, while four other alleged jihadists – Syed Talha Ahsan, Babar  Ahmad, Khaled  al-Fawwaz and Adel Abdul Bary – all pleaded not guilty to a  series of terrorist offences.

Hamza came into court  without his recognisable hooks, and with both arms exposed through his  short-sleeved blue prison shirt. His court-appointed lawyer, Sabrina Shroff,  asked that his prosthetics be immediately returned ‘so he can use his  arms’.

Hearing: Hamza’s appearance in court was a victory for the U.S. legal system after years of extradition attempts

The Islamist fanatic lost the last of his  countless appeals in a legal farce that has seen him thwart extradition for more  than eight years at a cost to British taxpayers of millions of  pounds.

An armoured police van collected the hate  preacher from HMP Long  Lartin in Worcestershire at around 7.30pm yesterday, just a few hours after the  decision was made.

The van, heavily flanked by a  number of  other police vehicles with their emergency lights on, drove more than 130 miles  to the U.S Air Force base RAF Mildenhall  in Suffolk.

Two planes carrying the  suspects took off shortly before  midnight.

The Gulfstream aircraft believed to contain Cleric Abu Hamza takes off from RAF Mildenhall in Suffolk just hours after he lost his final legal fight to remain in the Britain

The convoy of vehicles with blue flashing  lights earlier entered the military base through a side entrance at 10.10pm  after completing the journey in just under three hours.

Paperwork was then completed and after years  of fighting against it, the group were successfully handed over to U.S.  marshals, who were waiting to escort them on the 3,700-mile flight to the United  States.

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.’

Charges: Imam Abu Hamza al-Masri, pictured addressing his followers near Finsbury Park mosque, north London, in March 2004, now faces terror charges in America

Yesterday Hamza’s lawyers — in a move condemned as a blatant delaying tactic — had gone back to court again  to claim  he was unfit to stand trial.

They said the ‘harsh’ conditions in his cell  at HMP Belmarsh had left him  unwell, sleep-deprived and depressed — and  demanded an MRI scan.

After a three-day hearing, a judge at the  High Court in London yesterday said he was ‘wholly unpersuaded’ by their claims,  adding: ‘The sooner he is  put on trial, the better.’

Making clear no further appeals would be  allowed in the case, Sir John Thomas, President of the Queen’s Bench Division,  rejected the idea that Hamza  was unfit to plead.

If depressed, he said, Hamza could get  anti-depressants in the U.S.

He also criticised delays in the  extradition  process, saying it was ‘unacceptable’ that the case should  have taken so long,  and warning of ‘real dangers’ of a system that  allows repeated appeals on  issues that had already been decided.

The judges also rejected legal  challenges by  Babar Ahmad, Syed Ahsan, Khaled Al-Fawwaz and Adel Abdul  Bary, who were part of  the convoy to arrive at the airbase.

A 20-seater Gulfstream V jet owned by the US  Department of Justice and a  privately-owned Dassault Falcon 900 jet were  visible from the airfield  perimeter.

The two  white aircraft were in stark  contrast to the base’s fleet of United  States Air Force KC-135 fuel tanker jets  and C-130 transport planes.

Official  flight records reveal that the  twin-engine Gulfstream jet arrived at RAF Mildenhall on Tuesday night after a  six hour and 27 minute flight from  Reagan National airport in Washington  DC.

A U.S. Embassy spokeswoman said: ‘These extraditions mark the end of a lengthy process of litigation through  the UK  courts and the ECHR.

‘The U.S. government agrees with the  ECHR’s  findings that the conditions of confinement in U.S. prisons -  including in  maximum security facilities – do not violate European  standards.

‘The law enforcement relationship  between  the United States and United Kingdom is predicated on trust,  respect, and the  common goals of protecting our nations and eliminating  safe havens for  criminals, including terrorists.’

Hamza, who is missing his right  hand and an  eye, has celebrated the September 11 terror attacks,  preached jihad to a young  congregation, and landed the British taxpayer  with a bill running into millions  of pounds for his detention and legal  costs.

Hamza faces 11 counts of criminal conduct  related to the taking of 16 hostages in Yemen in 1998, advocating violent jihad  in  Afghanistan in 2001 and conspiring to establish a jihad training camp in Bly, Oregon, between June 2000 and December 2001.

If found guilty the 54-year-old is likely to  die behind bars.

Source: The Daily Mail


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