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UK extradites radical Muslim cleric

Radical Muslim cleric Abu Hamza and four other terrorism suspects have been extradited to the United States for trial. The British High Court made a ruling to allow the transfer after years of litigation.

Hamza and the four others were put on board a US-bound flight on Friday at a Royal Air Force base northeast of London, British Home Secretary Theresa May announced.

The handover came after judges dismissed an attempt by Hamza's lawyers to prevent his extradition on health grounds.

They had argued that Hamza's health had deteriorated in prison, and that he was suffering from depression and short-term memory loss.

Lawyers from the British Home Office argued in their turn, however, that if the 54-year-old preacher was suffering from a degenerative condition, his trial should take place as soon as possible.

The court also rejected legal challenges by four other suspects wanted by the US - Babar Ahmad, Syed Ahsan, Khaled Al-Fawwaz and Adel Abdul Bary.

Fiery preacher

The Egyptian-born Hamza is wanted in the US on a number of terrorism-related charges, including a hostage-taking in Yemen in 1998 and alleged plans to set up a militant training camp in the US state of Oregon.

Hamza first came to Britain in 1979. As imam at London's Finsbury Park Mosque, he supported radical Islamist goals such as creating a new Islamic caliphate, and also gave verbal backing to former al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

He was first arrested in Britain at the request of the US in May 2004, and has spent time in and out of prison since then. During the past few years, he has battled against extradition to the US.

Last week, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France, ruled that Hamza's human rights would not be violated if he was extradited to the US.

tj,rc/sej (AP, dpa)