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The European Court of Human Rights ruled Tuesday that Britain can extradite a notorious Islamist cleric and four other alleged al-Qaida supporters to the United States to face terrorism charges, a move that legal observers say will likely clear the way for similar extraditions in the future.
The New York Times reports that the seven judges on the European court ruled unanimously that the terror suspects' human rights would not be violated by sending them across the Atlantic, where they face the prospect of 50-plus-year sentences in American "supermax" penitentiaries.
The most high-profile of the five suspects is Abu Hamza al-Masri, an Islamist cleric who has been linked to a number of unprosecuted anti-American plots that date back more than a decade and who has publicly praised the 9/11 attacks. Hamza and the others have three months to appeal the decision. The court adjourned its ruling on a sixth suspect pending a psychiatric report.
Reuters reports that, if convicted, Hamza faces a 100-plus-year sentence in the United States, something the cleric argued would violate his human rights.
While the ruling clears the way for the others to serve time in places like the Florence Administrative Maximum Facility—a Colorado prison known as the "Alcatraz of the Rockies" that is home to some of the nation's most violent criminals—the Strasbourg-based court noted that U.S. authorities would not send Hamza there because of his disabilities. The cleric has a glass eye and is missing a hand, much to the delight of the British tabloid industry, which dubbed him the "the hook-handed hate preacher."