NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) — Five terror suspects were extradited from Britain after losing their lengthy fight to avoid facing charges in the U.S., and officials say at least two of the men are expected in court Saturday.
Radical preacher Abu Hamza al-Masri and four other terror suspects were extradited after Britain's High Court ruled Friday they had no more grounds for appeal.
The U.S. attorney's office in Connecticut said Babar Ahmad and Syed Talha Ahsan are scheduled to appear in U.S. District Court in New Haven on Saturday morning.
Ahmad and Ahsan, along with al-Masri, Khaled al-Fawwaz and Adel Abdul Bary, left Britain aboard two planes early Saturday, according to Scotland Yard.
"I'm absolutely delighted that Abu Hamza is now out of this country," Prime Minister David Cameron said. "Like the rest of the public I'm sick to the back teeth of people who come here, threaten our country, who stay at vast expense to the taxpayer and we can't get rid of them."
"I'm delighted on this occasion we've managed to send this person off to a country where he will face justice," he added.
Officials with the U.S. attorney's office in New York would not confirm the arrival of al-Masri and the other two men.
The extraditions came just hours after a ruling at the High Court, where Judges John Thomas and Duncan Ouseley rejected last-ditch applications by the men, who have been battling extradition for between eight and 14 years.
Thomas said there were no grounds for any further delay, noting that it was "in the interest of justice that those accused of very serious crimes, as each of these claimants is in these proceedings, are tried as quickly as possible as is consistent with the interests of justice."
"It follows that their extradition to the United States of America may proceed immediately," the judge said in a ruling that was welcomed by the U.S. Embassy and prompted assurances from the British government to put the men on planes to the United States "as quickly as possible."
The five have sought to avoid extradition by raising concerns about human rights and the conditions they would face in a U.S. prison. Both British and European courts have ruled that they can be sent to the U.S. to face charges, but they sought last-minute injunctions from the High Court.
The suspects face a variety of charges stretching back several years.
The best known of the defendants is al-Masri, an Egyptian-born former nightclub bouncer who turned London's Finsbury Park Mosque into a training ground for radical Islamists during the 1990s. The mosque was once attended by Sept. 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui and "shoe bomber" Richard Reid.
Al-Masri is wanted in the U.S. on charges that include conspiring with Seattle men to set up a terrorist training camp in Oregon and helping abduct 16 hostages, two of them American tourists, in Yemen in 1998.
Ahmad and Ahsan face charges in Connecticut relating to websites that allegedly sought to raise cash, recruit fighters and seek equipment for terrorists in Afghanistan and Chechnya.
Bary and al-Fawwaz were indicted with others, including Osama bin Laden, for their alleged roles in the bombings of two U.S. embassies in east Africa in 1998. Al-Fawwaz faces more than 269 counts of murder.
Al-Masri has been in a British jail since 2004 on separate charges of inciting racial hatred and encouraging followers to kill non-Muslims.
Lawyers for the 54-year-old preacher, who has one eye and hooks in place of hands he claims to have lost fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan, argued in court that his deteriorating physical and mental health meant it would be "oppressive" to send him to a U.S. prison. They said he suffers from depression, chronic sleep deprivation, diabetes and other ailments.
The judges said his conditions could be treated in the U.S., and concluded that "there is nothing to suggest that extradition in this case would be unjust or oppressive."
Before Friday's ruling, a small group of Islamist protesters gathered outside the court to denounce the planned extraditions. A few scuffled briefly with police and one seized a placard reading "Sling His Hook" from a demonstrator expressing the opposite view.
While al-Masri has been portrayed in the British media as one of the most dangerous men in the country, the case of Babar Ahmad has raised concerns among legal experts and human rights advocates.
Ahmad, a London computer expert, is accused in the U.S. of running terrorist-funding websites. He and Ahsan both face charges including using a website to provide support to terrorists and conspiracy to kill, kidnap, maim or injure persons or damage property in a foreign country.
Ahmad and Ahsan were expected in court in Connecticut on Saturday, where an Internet service provider was allegedly used to host one of the websites...
Some lawyers and lawmakers have expressed concerns about the case, because Britain agreed to extradite him even though his alleged crimes were committed in Britain and British courts declined to prosecute him for lack of evidence.
In prison since 2004, Ahmad has been held without charge for the longest period of any British citizen detained since the Sept. 11 attacks.
In a statement read on his behalf outside court, Ahmad said his case had exposed flaws in U.S.-U.K. extradition arrangements. "I leave with my head held high, having won the moral victory," he said.
His father, Ashfaq Ahmad, said he would continue to fight for his son.
"It's not just one Babar Ahmad. Tomorrow there will be another Babar Ahmad and another one," he said.
Neumeister reported from New York City. Associated Press writers Jill Lawless and Sylvia Hui in London contributed to this report.