Radical UK preacher not bound for Guantánamo

Miami HeraldOctober 5, 2012 

A suspected radical Muslim preacher and four alleged other terrorists approved for extradition to the United States on Friday will not be going to the prison camps at Guantánamo under treaty negotiations carried out by the Bush administration with Britain.

Britain’s high court on Friday cleared the way for the imminent transfer to U.S. soil of Abu Hamza al Masri, Khaled al Fawwaz, Babar Ahmad, Adel Abdul Bary and Syed Ahsan, five men who had been battling extradition for eight to 14 years.

Masri allegedly turned London’s Finsbury Park Mosque into a training ground for radical Islamists during the 1990s but faced no charges in Britain. The United States has wanted him on charges alleging he conspired to set up a terrorist training camp in Oregon, and other terror related crimes.

But under no circumstances will the men be sent to Guantánamo for prosecution at the Pentagon’s war court, a Justice Department official told The Miami Herald on Friday, soon after extradition was approved.

“The United Kingdom has authorized their extradition to the United States only for prosecution on the charges pending against them in federal civilian courts, and, therefore, they may not be tried in military commissions,” said the official, who answered questions on condition he not be identified by name.

Their federal indictments date back to the Clinton and Bush administrations, said the official, who noted that several co-defendants and associates of the men whose extradition was approved Friday have already been prosecuted and sentenced in terror cases in federal courts in Manhattan and Connecticut.

To make sure they wouldn’t go to Guantánamo for prosecution, the British government specifically sought, and got, “binding commitments” between 2004 and 2008 regarding these five particular men, the official said. The negotiations, done as part of U.S.-U.K. treaty negotiations, made clear they “would only be tried in federal civilian court,” he added.

The Justice Department’s timetable of the negotiations indicates that the Bush administration committed to keeping them out of Guantánamo even before President Barack Obama took office. He has ordered his administration to halt transfers to the controversial prison in southeast Cuba and close it.

The official would not say when the men would arrive in the United States.

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