LONDON – He’s reviled as the one-eyed, hook-handed terror suspect so troublesome that even Queen Elizabeth II reportedly felt moved to wonder why he remained at liberty despite his fiery call for a jihad, or holy war.
Britain is now set to extradite its most recognizable extremist – Mustafa Kamal Mustafa, who is better known as Abu Hamza al-Masri – to the United States, deporting him to face terrorism charges, including allegedly helping set up a terrorist training camp in rural Oregon.
This is a person who has been a blight on this country from more than a decade, said Robin Simcox, a research fellow at the Henry Jackson Society, a London-based foreign-affairs think tank. I don’t think there will be many people shedding a tear.
It’s been a long time coming: A European court decision Monday cleared the way for his extradition and that of four other terror suspects after an eight-year legal battle, meaning he could be deported within weeks.
For years, the Egyptian-born former nightclub bouncer, who claimed he lost his eye and hands fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan, used his base in north London’s Finsbury Park Mosque to persuade a young congregation to take up the cause of holy war.
The mosque was once attended by both Sept. 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui and shoe bomber Richard Reid. A senior UK terrorism official described the mosque as a honeypot for extremists. After the Sept. 11 terror attacks, the cleric declared that many people will be happy, jumping up and down at this moment.
When authorities raided the mosque, he simply moved outside, holding his sermons on the street, castigating Britain and calling for holy war.
The national frustration apparently rose to the monarch, whose views are rarely given a public airing.
Buckingham Palace refused to comment on a BBC report by security correspondent Frank Gardner, who said he had spoken with the queen and that she had mentioned that she told the senior government official in charge of law and order that she had been upset there was no basis on which to arrest the preacher of hate.
The cleric and four others fought extradition, claiming the prospect of solitary confinement in one of America’s supermax high-security jails and the potential for life without parole would breach a European ban on torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
His lawyers had questioned U.S. assurances that he would not be mistreated or face the death penalty if convicted. Under European law, Britain cannot extradite suspects to countries where they might be executed.