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Muslim cleric Abu Hamza appeals extradition to US

The British High Court has halted the extradition of radical Muslim cleric Abu Hamza to the US, after a last-ditch legal appeal. The European Court of Human Rights had ruled this week he could be handed over.

A spokeswoman for Britain's Judiciary Office said a judge issued interim injunctions against the removal of Hamza and another terror suspect, Khaled Al-Fawwaz, after both launched legal challenges in the High Court. She said a hearing in an open court would happen urgently.

"I can confirm applications have been received by the High Court from Abu Hamza and Khaled Al-Fawwaz seeking injunctions to prevent their extradition," Rachael Collins told the news agency AFP. "These will be considered on the papers by a single judge in the first instance."

Hamza is wanted on a number of terrorism charges in the United States. They include plans to set up an al-Qaeda-style training camp in the northwestern state of Oregon between 2000-2001, sending money and recuits to Afghanistan to help the Taliban and al Qaeda, and hostage taking in Yemen in 1998.

The 54-year-old Egyptian-born cleric first came to Britain in 1979. He has spent time in and out of prison and fought a long battle over extradition to the US.

On Monday, the European Court of Human Rights rejected an appeal by Hamza and four others against an earlier ruling in April. They had argued that extradition would breach their human rights.

Britain had said it would go ahead with the extradition request as soon as possible. This has now been put on hold, pending this latest appeal.

jr/msh (AFP, dpa, AP)