New York/Washington: In what is described as a "watershed moment", radical Islamic cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri along with four other terror suspects was today flown in from the UK to face trial on charges relating to hostage taking and conspiracy to set up an al-Qaeda-style militant training camp.
Hamza, 54, and the other terror suspects appeared in federal courts today.
Hamza entered no plea to charges of conspiring with Seattle men to set up a terrorist training camp in Oregon and of helping abduct 16 hostages, two of them American tourists, in Yemen in 1998.
Hamza came to court without the hooks he uses in place of hands. His court-appointed lawyer, Sabrina Shroff, asked that his prosthetics be immediately returned "so he can use his arms."
Besides the hooked-hand Hamza, the others who were extradited are Adel Abdul Bary, Khalid al-Fawwaz, Babar Ahmad, and Syed Talha Ahsan.
Khalid al-Fawwaz and Adel Abdul Bary appeared alongside Hamza in New York and Syed Talha Ahsan, 33, and Babar Ahmad, 38, were arraigned in New Haven, to charges that they provided terrorists in Afghanistan and Chechnya with cash, recruits and equipment.
Apart from Hamza the other four terror suspects pleaded not guilty in the US courts where they were produced soon after their arrival in the US.
US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara, termed their extradition, after years of fighting a legal battle, "as a watershed moment" in US' efforts to eradicate terrorism.
"As is charged, these are men who were at the nerve centers of al-Qaeda's acts of terror, and they caused blood to be shed, lives to be lost, and families to be shattered.
"After years of protracted legal battles, the extradition of these alleged terrorists to the US is a watershed moment in our nation's efforts to eradicate terrorism, and it makes good on a promise to the American people to use every available diplomatic, legal, and administrative tool to pursue and prosecute charged terrorists no matter how long it takes," Bharara said.
The India-born top Manhattan prosecutor said Hamza, Bary, and Fawwaz will finally face justice.
FBI Acting Assistant Director in Charge Mary Galligan said, "The extraditions of Abu Hamza, Bary, and Fawwaz are a major milestone in our effort to see these alleged high-level terrorists face American justice".
"The indictments allege the direct participation of these defendants in planning and carrying out some of the most odious acts of al-Qaeda terrorism.
"When an indictment alleges the murderous intent of international terrorists, the government will not waver in its determination to achieve justice, no matter how long it takes," the FBI official said.
Hamza is scheduled to be arraigned on October 9 before US District Judge Katherine B Forrest, at which time an initial pre-trial conference will also be held.
Initial pre-trial conference of Fawwaz and Bary before Judge Kaplan is scheduled for October 9.
Ahmad, 38, and Ahsan, 33, both British citizens, have been charged with terrorism-related offences stemming from their involvement in, and operation of, 'Azzam Publications', an entity in London that allegedly provided material support to the Chechen Muhjahideen, the Taliban, and associated terrorist groups.
The indictment alleges that Mustafa Kamel Mustafa, aka Abu Hamza was involved in a hostage-taking conspiracy in Yemen in December 1998 when the hostage-takers stormed a caravan of sport utility vehicles carrying 16 tourists, including two United States citizens, and took the tourists hostage by force.