Opinion: Abu Hamza isn’t Gary McKinnon but we should still be concerned about his extradition

The extradition of Abu Hamza and 4 other men to the US seems to have given almost universal pleasure and there is no doubt that he seems an extraordinarily unpleasant man, with a long criminal record and deeply repellent views.

But it is in just these sorts of cases that a Liberal needs to be careful and not just go with popular opinion. When you look at what crimes he and the other men involved are accused of it is impossible not to be concerned. It is, interestingly enough, quite difficult to find exactly what they are accused of; the best summary I have found is here.

Abu Hamza himself is accused of organising kidnappings in Yemen, in which a number of people were killed during rescue attempt. 12 of those killed were British, so if there is a case against him why are we not making it here? He is also accused of supporting the Taliban and the only crime which may have directly affected the US, organising a terrorist training camp in Oregon. This seems to have been a rather absurd affair, basically a scam by a petty crook.

The case against some of the other men is even more troubling. They are accused of using US based websites to raise funds for Al Qaeda and in one case having purchased satellite phone-in the US which subsequently used for terrorist purposes. Most worrying of all the DPP has decided not to prosecute any of these crimes in the UK. What possible reason can there be for not doing so? The alleged crimes were committed here. In some cases British citizens were killed by their alleged actions and yet we send them thousands of miles away to be tried.

If using a US based website is a legitimate grounds for extradition then none of us safe from prosecution by the US government. Send an e mail via Gmail, Hotmail or Yahoo, do something on Facebook that the US government doesn’t like and you can be extradited. Buy an iPad in the US and you are liable to be extradited if you use it to send an e mail that the US Government believes is a crime.

Surely we should have as a basic Liberal principal that if someone has committed a crime in the UK, they should be tried here? And that should apply to Abu Hamza, vile though he is, as much as Gary McKinnon, and it should apply to extradition to any other country, including our EU partners as well as to the US.

* Simon McGrath is Chair of Merton Lib Dems, writing in a personal capacity

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7 Comments

  • Charles Beaumont 16th Oct '12 - 7:10pm

    Surely the only relevant questions are: is their a case to answer and will he get a fair trial? On the latter, he’s in a standard US court (not some trumped-up military commission): on balance a pretty trustworthy place. On the former, whatever Simon McGrath has written, Abu Hamza has been judged at every possible level all the way to the ECHR to have questions to answer. He has probably enjoyed more levels of scrutiny than any other extradition subject. As a liberal, I don’t like the US enthusiasm for incarceration, nor the death penalty (which isn’t an option in this case). But if you ask, can a man get a fair trial in a New York court, I think the sensible answer is “yes he can”.

  • Richard Dean 17th Oct '12 - 1:50am

    The link provided in the article above, under “here”, seems to detail a lot more charges than are summarised in this article. For instance, the “sixth applicant” is Mr Khaled Al-Fawwaz, a Saudi national. Is he one of the five being extradited? Paragraph 19 states:

    19. The sixth applicant is charged with two hundred and eighty-five counts of criminal conduct, including over two hundred and sixty-nine counts of murder

  • Simon McGrath 17th Oct '12 - 3:45pm

    @ charles actually i dont think ‘will he get a fair trial’ is rhe only question to answer. Why should he be tried in the US for crimes he commited in the UK is also an important question.

    @ richard – what relevance is the number of counts against someone to the isue of where they should be tried ?

  • Richard Dean 17th Oct '12 - 4:40pm

    Simple. Part of your case seems to be that the US charges are trivial, particularly compared to the 1`2 UK deaths. Example – your assertion that Oregon was just “petty crook”ery. Article 19 seems to indicate that they aren’t.

  • I’m sorry Simon but your post is exactly the reason that I cannot consider voting liberal democrat. This is a man that in the last eight years has had 1.5 million in benefits paid to him and his family, he has wandered around the streets of London, preaching Sharia Law, stopping traffic, calling this country a ‘toilet’ and waving two metal hooks around in an offensive manner that anyone else doing, would have long ago been arrested for. Let’s no even mention his ongoing attempts to brain wash vulnerable young adults and people into committing misguided acts of Jihad and using what was once respected Muslim Temple, to store anti British material and I believe a cache of chemical suits.

    I am sick and tired of people banging on about human rights. Let me ask you this. What about OUR human rights? The majority of the public are decent, hardworking people that are sick and tired of the likes of Abu Hamza getting away with this type of thing.

    These men are dangerous. I am sick of the politically correct rubbish. Gary Kinnon was not a threat to the public, Hamza was. Have you considered that the Government for once had LISTENED to the electorate and passed this decision because we wanted him OUT. I am glad he is being tried over there and so are millions of others. He will get a prison that treats him the way he has treated others for the majority of his life. His metal hooks were confiscated upon arrival in America., can you imagine the British police getting away with confiscating his hook? He would have staged another legal challenge costing us thousands more.

    I think you need to understand, that for once, British Justice delivered, albeit 8 years too late. America can and will do what we appeared scared to do. It was the right result and cases should be considered on a case by case basis, as was his, and as was Kinnon’s.

    It would be refreshing for a member of the liberal democrats for ONCE stop peddling the ‘is this fair’ line, and accept his extradition for what it was. The correct decision for a man that has spent 8 years at least, sticking his fingers up at all of us, including you.

  • I think you miss the point, Nicole. Nobody denies that Abu Hamza is a repellant individual and should be prosecuted. The question is, why should the US do the prosecuting? The crimes were committed here in the UK and many of those who died in the Yemeni kidnapping business were British. Are we merely giving ownership of the fight against Islamic terror to the USA? Why?

    Two of the men were extradited because their repellent website was hosted on a server that is physically situated in the US. Given that nobody checks the geographical location of their hosting, this sets a precedent where anybody who posts prosecutable material could be sent to The States for trial.

    Incidentally , Yemen also wanted Hamza extradited. The most serious crimes of which he is accused were committed there so why not grant the Yemenis their wish? Why do the Americans get him?

    If your problem is to do with the weakness of British justice in Abu Hamza’s case, that’s a different question. Nobody is saying he’s probably innocent, or he’s a nice man. Punish him properly, by all means – here, where he committed his crimes.

    PS. Calling the country a toilet and “waving his hooks around” are not technically crimes. And confiscating his “hooks” (they’re not weapons – just basic prostheses) is effectively taking his hands away. I hoped we were better than the countries that do that.

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