Politics & Policy

Extradition Delayed Is Justice Denied

Britain's Home Office runs interference for jihad's "Captain Hook."

He arrived in Europe with great fanfare: an inspiring young leader from a foreign land who spoke with passion about change and social justice. And Europe answered the call, taking him to her bosom. He is, after all, every bit a “citizen of the world,” seizing on the bright promise of international tribunals to overcome the imperialist Anglo-American unilateralism of the past. And no one is more certain that dealing with terrorism through the maze of judicial processes is far preferable to George Bush’s cowboy-style militancy.

He’s not Barack Obama, though.

He is Mustafa Kamel Mustafa: Egyptian by birth, Briton by dubious marriage, and better known as Abu Hamza al-Masri. Shorn of an eye and armed with a curled prosthesis where his right hand once was — one of those unfortunate “mine-clearing accidents” in Afghanistan — he is the jihad’s very own “Captain Hook.”

He is the kind of terrorist who has customarily been killed, captured or otherwise neutralized on President Bush’s watch.

He is the kind of terrorist who would snicker and live to fight another day … and another … and another, if a President Obama were to make good on his promise to “restore America’s image in the world” — i.e., prostrate ourselves in the futile hope that the planet’s barbarians and parasites will like us better. Just look where that approach has gotten Great Britain.

According to American officials, Abu Hamza is responsible for the 1998 abduction by Yemeni jihadists of 16 Western tourists (including two Americans), four of whom were killed when the terrorists used them as human shields during a rescue attempt.

He sent emissaries to Oregon to establish a jihadist camp at which trainees were instructed on how to slit their victims’ throats, hijack trucks, and construct bombs and poisons.

He used his position as imam of London’s infamous Finsbury Park Mosque to recruit Muslims for jihadist training in Afghanistan — the same type of training undergone by the 9/11 hijackers, the 1998 American embassy bombers, the 1993 World Trade Center bombers, and countless other Muslim militants.

He has been under indictment by the Justice Department since 2004 for conspiring to support terrorists, and to kidnap, kill, and maim Americans. He has also, for years, been wanted in Yemen for the 1998 hostage-taking operation, which he facilitated from London.

And there’s the rub: The maestro conducts from today’s United Kingdom.

The U.K. has not only put out the welcome mat for jihadists of other nations. It gives them uncontested space to radicalize other disgruntled Muslims. It swaddles them in the majesty of British civil rights (that would be the liberties forged by the people they are sworn to vanquish). It runs interference for them against the nations on which they prey. It denies Islam could possibly have anything to do with Islamic terrorism. And when all else fails, being a paragon of the post-sovereign order, it punts to the “international community,” whose tribunals — under the laughable banner of “human rights” — are even more indulgent of those pledged to kill as many humans as possible.

In Abu Hamza’s case, the U.S. has been trying to navigate the labyrinth of British extradition for four years. But the Brits — even as they demanded the return from Guantanamo Bay of non-British enemy combatants who had previously resided in the U.K. — have declined to send him here for trial.

Think that’s a product of fear that he’ll be consigned to Cowboy Bush’s Gitmo torture chamber? Guess again. We are still waiting, a decade later, for England to extradite a number of al-Qaeda operatives who, in 1998, bombed the U.S. embassies in Africa.

The blunt fact is British authorities were allowing their laws to shield jihadists from American justice before there ever was a 9/11, a Bush administration, a Gitmo, or a military commission trial process. The United States, moreover, has solemnly committed that Abu Hamza will not be sent to Gitmo and will not face that bane of European sensibilities, the death penalty. We just want him for one of those regular old civilian trials — the full flower of due process that Bush-bashers so profess to love. And still they have resisted sending him.

Indeed, their fashionable Islamophilia notwithstanding, the Brits have even refused to send Abu Hamza to Yemen. Couldn’t be sure he’d get a fair trial there despite Yemen’s venerable Muslim culture and scrupulous adherence to those rich principles of sharia that the Archbishop of Canterbury expects will soon be imported into English law — principles under which terrorists were acquitted in 2006 by a Yemeni judge who reasoned that jihad against infidel occupiers in Iraq was a duty, not a crime.

British police arrested Abu Hamza in 2004 based on the American charges. Yet, rather than risk extraditing him while British public opinion was turning sharply against the Blair government and the U.S. over the war in Iraq, the Brits elected to prosecute him themselves (based on the very evidence they’d demanded to support his extradition). He was convicted in 2006 of inciting race hatred and soliciting murder. In England, this was worth a whopping seven years in prison. With parole and time already served, the real sentence stood to be considerably less.

The Justice Department thus continued to press the American extradition request. Knowing her approval would merely trigger months of additional litigation rather than an actual transfer, the Right Honorable Jacqui Smith, newly minted as home secretary, signed off on the request this past February. Months later, Abu Hamza’s appeal to the high court was rejected. In fact, it was so patently meritless that, on July 23, he was denied leave to appeal to the House of Lords. It appeared that the years of avoiding American prosecution were finally at an end.

But not for a citizen of the world. Abu Hamza may have been in England, but England doesn’t run England anymore. Europe does, with the gushing subservience of New Labor lackeys.

Without giving any notice to the Justice Department, Home Secretary Smith promised Abu Hamza’s lawyers there would be no extradition for two weeks so they could appeal to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. The convicted terrorist told the ECHR that American prosecutors and prison conditions would surely violate his human rights. Gravely concerned, the ECHR immediately ordered Great Britain to halt the extradition until it could study the matter. Smith informed the Justice Department that she fully intends to comply.

The Home Office decision means it may be years before Abu Hamza is transferred to the United States — if ever. As Smith well knew, the ECHR has a backlog of several hundred thousand cases. Why, just in 2007 the Home Office permitted Haroon Aswat, an Abu Hamza associate also long sought by the United States, to petition the ECHR for a stay of extradition. The stay was promptly granted and has been languishing for fourteen months with no resolution in sight. (The ECHR apparently makes time to expedite only stays of extradition for terrorists; actual extraditions wait until the judges get around to them.)

There are no secrets after so many years. The Brits know the U.S. case against Abu Hamza depends critically on witness testimony. Over time, witnesses’ memories often fade, they get sick or die, they flee out of fear, or they commit new crimes making it impractical to seek their testimony. This has already occurred here: one witness against Abu Hamza has committed a murder in the years while extradition has been pending, and another has fled.

This is what happens when you pretend your national-security threats are mere legal problems: Cases slowly disintegrate while your enemies disarm you, using the legal processes designed to protect the citizens they seek to kill. This is what happens when you subordinate the security of your own nation to the approbation of an “international community” that sees self-defense as a bigger threat than jihadism — which it cannot even bring itself to call “jihadism.”

Did England have to let Abu Hamza appeal to the ECHR? Smith’s office says the U.K. was simply honoring its European treaty obligations. But Spain, Germany, and the Czech Republic, which operate under the same obligations, have had no problem extraditing defendants to the United States without permitting them to seek a stay.

At his 2006 British trial, Abu Hamza matter-of-factly claimed his actions were compelled by Islamic scripture and — whaddya know — pointed the court to verses of the Koran that unambiguously command violence. In 2007, as Britons were horrified by the specter of yet more Muslim immigrants attempting yet more bombings, Jacqui Smith was quick to pronounce that “[a]ny attempt to identify a murderous ideology with a great faith such as Islam is wrong and needs to be denied.”

Citizens of the world sure spend a lot of their time in the denial business.

— National Review’s Andrew C. McCarthy chairs FDD’s Center for Law & Counterterrorism and is the author of Willful Blindness: A Memoir of the Jihad.

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