Britain allowed to extradite five alleged extremists
The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France ruled on April 10 that the United Kingdom may extradite radical Muslim cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri and four other suspected terrorists to the United States to face a terrorism trial that may result in long prison sentences in a so-called “supermax” prison (AP, Reuters, AJE, Tel, BBC, NYT,CNN, WSJ). The five men had argued that the potential sentences carried by the charges and the conditions in maximum-security jails in the United States amount to a violation of human rights, with which the court disagreed. The family of one suspect, Babar Ahmad, has pledged to appeal the ruling, and the European judges said in their ruling that no one will be extradited until the decision is “final,” meaning that all appeals will be heard first (AFP).
A second psychiatric evaluation of self-confessed Norwegian mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik found on April 10 that he is sane enough to face trial and a prison sentence, contradicting his first evaluation in November, during which he was declared legally insane (BBC, NYT, AP, WSJ, AJE, CNN LAT, Tel). Breivik has admitted to killing 77 people with a car bomb in Oslo and during a shooting spree on the island of Utoya, but says he was protecting Norway from the “multiculturalism” brought by Muslim immigrants, and that he “regrets not going further.”
Four men pleaded not guilty in Denmark on April 13 to charges that they plotted to attack the offices of Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten in revenge for its publication of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in 2005 that many Muslims found offensive (Reuters, AP, AFP, Tel, BBC). Prosecutors also allege that the four Swedish residents of Libyan, Moroccan, Tunisian, and Lebanese descent planned to target Danish Crown Prince Frederik during his appearance at an award ceremony at another Danish newspaper in December 2010.
Tarek Mehanna sentenced to over 17 years in prison
Massachusetts native Tarek Mehanna was sentenced to 17 ½ years in prison on April 12, after being convicted on four terrorism-related charges in December for allegedly traveling to Yemen to receive terrorist training with the intention of fighting U.S. troops in Iraq, then returning to translate and disseminate al-Qaeda propaganda in the United States (AP, CNN, AFP, Reuters). Mehanna’s lawyers had requested a 6 ½-year sentence, after arguing that Mehanna was simply exploring his religion in Yemen, and exercising his right to free speech by translating extremist material in the United States.
A federal judge in Baltimore sentenced Muslim convert Antonio Martinez, also known as Muhammad Hussain, on April 6 to 25 years in prison, following Martinez’s guilty plea in January to plotting to bomb a military recruiting center near Baltimore in December 2010 (WSJ, Post, AP, CNN, Reuters).
Albanian immigrant Agron Hasbajrami pleaded guilty before a federal court in Brooklyn on April 12 to one count of attempting to provide material support to terrorists for sending more than $1,000 to Pakistan with the intention of funding terrorist activities (NYT, AP, AFP, WSJ). Hasbajrami was arrested in September at John F. Kennedy International Airport — allegedly on his way to join a Pakistani jihadist group — and could face up to 15 years in prison.
The so-called “underwear bomber,” Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who is serving a life sentence for attempting to blow up a Detroit-bound passenger plane on December 25, 2009, was moved to Colorado’s supermax prison on April 13, though authorities did not give a specific reason for the transfer (AP, Detroit News, CNN).
Arraignment date set for alleged 9/11 plotters
On April 10, U.S. Army Col. James Pohl, the head of military trials at Guantánamo Bay, directed five detainees accused of plotting the 9/11 attacks to appear before him for an arraignment on May 5 (AP, AFP, McClatchy, ). The five men include the alleged mastermind of the attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, and all could face the death penalty if convicted.
Col. Pohl also agreed on April 10 to allow a First Amendment attorney to argue against closing to the public the first ever detainee testimony about CIA interrogations (Miami Herald). Attorney David A. Schulz was permitted to argue April 11 on behalf of several major U.S. news organizations that the pre-trial hearing of accused U.S.S. Cole bomber Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri be open to the media. However, Col. Pohl avoided ruling on the matter by postponing al-Nashiri’s testimony on his purported harsh interrogation at the hands of CIA officials at Guantánamo (AFP, NYT, Reuters).
Col. Pohl ordered prosecutors on April 12 to estimate how much money the government has spent investigating the U.S.S. Cole bombing, agreeing with the defense that if they have been vastly outspent by the prosecution, it is “potentially mitigating factor in a death case” (Reuters). Al-Nashiri’s lawyer Richard Kammen slammed the procedures of his client’s trial on April 12 following two days of pre-trial hearings, calling the military tribunal “the only court in the history of America…where the constitution of the United States didn’t apply” (Tel).
The BBC reported on April 9 that a letter from Britain’s MI6 to the intelligence chief of former Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi proves that the British government was explicitly involved in the extraordinary rendition of Abdel Hakim Belhaj in 2004 (BBC,Guardian). Belhaj is now a senior military commander in the new Libyan government, and is suing the British government for initiating his rendition. On April 11, a judge in Washington D.C. gave the CIA and FBI permission to withhold information from British Members of Parliament on the U.K.’s involvement in extraordinary rendition (Independent).
Trials and Tribulations
- Iran’s Intelligence Ministry said on April 10 that it had detained an Israeli-backed “terrorist team” plotting attacks inside Iran, but did not provide further details on the plots or the suspects (Post).
- The United Arab Emirates on April 10 detained six men accused of maintaining ties to groups that fund terrorists, after giving the men the option of leaving the UAE and obtaining citizenship elsewhere, which the men reportedly refused to do (AFP).
- The French government announced new counterterrorism laws on April 11 that would punish individuals who frequent extremist websites or travel abroad for terrorist training (AP, WSJ).
- An Ethiopian citizen working for the United Nations in Ethiopia went on trial on April 9 for his alleged links to the banned Ogaden National Liberation Front (VOA).