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Radical cleric can be sent to U.S.

  • Story Highlights
  • UK court: Radical Muslim cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri can be extradited to U.S.
  • Al-Masri's legal advisers: We are still exploring avenues of appeal
  • Followers include "shoe bomber" and only person to be charged for 9/11
  • Praised 9/11 attacks, called 2003 shuttle disaster punishment from Allah
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- A British court ruled Thursday that radical Muslim cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri can be extradited to the United States, a member of al-Masri's defense team confirmed to CNN, though any final decision on extradition is still several months away.

Abu Hamza al-Masri's followers include the "shoe bomber" and the only person charged in the 9/11 attacks.

Al-Masri's legal advisers said they were still exploring avenues of appeal, a process which could take months. Under British law, al-Masri must be allowed to exhaust his appeals before any extradition proceedings continue.

The British home secretary also has until the end of the cleric's current seven-year jail term to approve the extradition, though the Home Office said Secretary Jacqui Smith was expected to make a decision "shortly."

Al-Masri, who lost both hands and one eye working in Afghanistan, is the highest-profile radical Islamic figure in Britain. Video Watch a profile of the militant cleric »

He formerly preached at the Finsbury Park Mosque in London. His followers included the so-called "shoe bomber" Richard Reid -- who was convicted of trying to light a bomb in his shoes on a trans-Atlantic flight -- and Zacarias Moussaoui, the only person to be charged in the United States in connection with the September 11, 2001, terror attacks.

The Egyptian-born cleric began serving a seven-year prison sentence last year after being convicted in a British court of soliciting murder and inciting racial hatred.

But he is also facing 11 terrorism-related charges in the United States, which has promised to press for his extradition when British law allows.

The U.S. charges include conspiracy in connection with a 1998 kidnapping in Yemen and conspiring with others to establish an Islamic jihad, or holy war, training camp in rural Oregon in 1999.

If his appeals are denied, al-Masri could have his jail sentence interrupted to be extradited and stand trial in the United States, according to the Home Office. If he is given a prison sentence following a U.S. trial, he would return to England to complete the rest of his sentence there before flying back to be imprisoned in the United States.

A British judge last year sentenced al-Masri to seven years for soliciting murder and inciting racial hatred. The court convicted the cleric of possessing items including a 10-volume "encyclopedia" of Afghani jihad, which the prosecutor described as "a manual for terrorism;" the texts discussed how to make explosives, explained assassination methods, and detailed the best means of attack.


The cleric was also convicted of possessing video and audio recordings which prosecutors said he intended to distribute to stir up racial hatred.

Both non-Muslims and Muslims have condemned al-Masri's preaching, which include praising the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, calling al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden a hero, and describing the 2003 Columbia shuttle disaster as punishment from Allah because the astronauts were Christian, Hindu and Jewish. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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