Abu Hamza 'needs scan for possible brain condition'

FILE - This Friday, April 30, 2004 file photo shows Muslim cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri, as he arrives with a masked bodyguard, right. (AP Photo/Max Nash, File)

LONDON: Radical Islamist preacher Abu Hamza should not be extradited from Britain to the United States because he needs a brain scan to establish if he has a "degenerative" condition, his lawyer said Wednesday.

The Egyptian-born cleric and four other terror suspects are expected to learn on Friday if their last-ditch bids to secure injunctions to prevent their removal to the United States have been successful.

A lawyer for Abu Hamza told the High Court in London on the second day of hearings that the 54-year-old was making an application "pending the obtaining of an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) brain scan which has been recommended by two doctors".

The former imam of the Finsbury Park mosque in north London, who has been in prison in Britain for eight years, has "at least mild clinical depression" and could have an underlying neurological condition, lawyer Alun Jones said.

The depression has been caused in part by "chronic sleep deprivation which he suffered because of the required security checks" during the night at the top-security Belmarsh prison in London.

Jones described the neurological condition as potentially "degenerative", adding: "He is unfit to plead because he is unable to follow legal proceedings."

But judge John Thomas said "the risk of a degenerative condition can only strengthen the case for extradition", because Abu Hamza should go on trial and plead as soon as possible before his condition worsens.

Abu Hamza also suffers from repeated infections of the stumps of his amputated forearms and sweats excessively, requiring him to change clothes twice a day, the lawyer said.

He was moved from Belmarsh to another high-security prison, Long Lartin in central England, on September 20, the day before the European Court of Human Rights gave the green light for the five men's extradition.

Abu Hamza has been indicted in the United States on charges including setting up an Al-Qaeda-style training camp for militants in the northwestern state of Oregon.

He has also been charged with criminal conduct related to the taking of 16 hostages in Yemen in 1998 and with advocating violent jihad in Afghanistan in 2001.

One of the senior judges hearing the appeals said a judgement would be given on Friday.

"We shall not give judgement tomorrow. We shall give it on Friday at a time we shall notify you of," Thomas said.

Neither Abu Hamza nor the four other suspects were in court in person to hear the appeals.





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