- Associated Press - Monday, September 24, 2012

LONDON (AP) — Radical Muslim cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri has lost a court appeal to prevent extradition to the United States to face terrorism charges, including allegedly trying to set up an al Qaeda training camp in rural Oregon, officials said Monday.

The European Court of Human Rights gave its final approval for the cleric’s extradition Monday, ending a long-running legal battle. The decision means that al-Masri, considered one of Britain’s most notorious extremists, could be deported within weeks.

Al-Masri and four other terrorism suspects in Britain argued that in the United States they could face prison conditions and jail terms that would expose them to “torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment” in breach of the European human rights code.

In April, the Strasbourg, France-based human rights court rejected those claims. Al-Masri and the others lodged an appeal to that ruling, but on Monday the court said the appeal had failed.

“Today the Grand Chamber Panel decided to reject the request,” the court said in a statement. It did not give a reason for refusing the appeal.

Britain’s Home Office welcomed the decision.

“We will work to ensure that the individuals are handed over to the U.S. authorities as quickly as possible,” it said.

The suspects, who are accused of crimes such as raising funds for terrorists, could face life sentences in a maximum-security prison.

The U.S. accuses al-Masri, who is blind in one eye and wears a hook for a hand, of assisting the taking of 16 hostages in Yemen in 1998 and of conspiring to set up a terrorist training camp in Bly, Ore., between 2000 and 2001.

He also is accused of preaching jihad — holy war — in Afghanistan.

The cleric, who is known for his fiery anti-Western and anti-Semitic outbursts, claims he has lost his Egyptian nationality, but Britain considers him an Egyptian citizen. He currently is serving a seven-year prison term in Britain for inciting hatred.

Associated Press writer Angela Charlton in Paris contributed to this report.

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