LONDON (AP) — A European court ruled Monday that radical Muslim cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri can be extradited to the United States to face terrorism charges, including allegedly trying to set up an al-Qaida training camp in rural Oregon.
The decision ends a long-running legal battle and means that al-Masri, considered one of Britain's most notorious extremists, could be deported within weeks along with four other terrorism suspects in Britain.
Authorities in the U.S. have for years asked for Al-Masri and the others to be handed over, but the process had been delayed because the men raised human rights objections.
The men had argued before the European Court of Human Rights that they could face prison conditions and jail terms in the U.S. that would expose them to "torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment" in breach of the European human rights code.
In April, the Strasbourg, France-based court rejected those claims. Al-Masri and the four others lodged an appeal to the court's highest judges, but on Monday the court said it refused to hear it. "Today the Grand Chamber Panel decided to reject the request," the court said in a brief statement. It did not give a reason for refusing the appeal.
Britain's Home Office and the U.S. Department of Justice welcomed the decision.
"We will work to ensure that the individuals are handed over to the U.S. authorities as quickly as possible," said the Home Office.
The suspects, who are accused of crimes such as raising funds for terrorists, could face life sentences in a maximum-security prison.
Al-Masri was arrested in Britain in 2004 at the request of U.S. authorities, who have called him "a terrorist facilitator with a global reach."
They accuse him of assisting the taking of 16 hostages — including two American tourists — in Yemen in 1998 and of conspiring to set up a terrorist training camp in Bly, Oregon, between 2000 and 2001.
He also is accused of conspiring with a U.S. citizen to facilitate a jihad — or holy war — in Afghanistan and providing material support to al-Qaida and the Taliban.