London (CNSNews.com) - Britain's high court has ruled that a Saudi man living in Britain for the past six years, believed to have links with wanted terror leader Osama bin Laden, should be extradited to the United States to face murder conspiracy charges.
The FBI has accused Khalid al Fawwaz of conspiring with bin Laden - prime suspect in the deadly 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in East Africa - to bomb and murder American nationals abroad. The targets allegedly included U.S. servicemen and officials in the Middle East and Africa.
Reacting Friday to the British court ruling, a London-based Islamic leader said America's handling of the whole bin Laden case would backfire, and he warned that Muslims may find that using "force" was the only way to get the West to "listen to Muslim voices."
Al Fawwaz, 36, who was arrested in late 1998 at the request of the Americans, has denied any involvement with terrorism. He runs an office called the Advice and Reformation Committee but denies the FBI contention that it was a front for bin Laden.
His lawyers' argued that the courts here were not empowered to extradite him because of lack of evidence. They said further that the accused could only be extradited for crimes committed on U.S. territory.
The arguments were overruled by High Court judge Lord Justice Buxton, although al Fawwaz is expected to appeal the ruling by petitioning the House of Lords.
The bombing of the U.S. embassy in Nairobi, Kenya on August 7, 1998, killed 212 people, including 12 Americans. More than 4,500 others were wounded. Almost simultaneously, a bomb exploded near the U.S. mission in Dar-es-Salaam in neighboring Tanzania, killing 11 people and wounding 72 more.
The FBI named bin Laden, currently based in Afghanistan, as the mastermind. He and six other fugitives suspected of involvement remain at large while 10 others, including al Fawwaz, have been apprehended.
According to the indictment in the U.S. District Court in New York City, al Fawwaz conspired with the other accused to kill Americans in Somalia and Saudi Arabia in the early 1990s. Around 1993, he began to buy businesses and homes in Kenya, and a year later transferred one business there to a man identified as a "military commander" of bin Laden's al Qaida terrorist network.
In 1994, al Fawwaz set up an office in London around 1994 on behalf of Bin Laden, to provide cover for activity on behalf of al-Qaida, including the recruiting of military trainees and movement of funds.
He also allegedly provided bin Laden with satellite telephones, and was responsible for writing several "declarations of jihad" on behalf of bin Laden, declaring war on Americans in the Gulf.
Bin Laden is believed to remain in hiding in Afghanistan, and sanctions have been imposed against the Taliban militia ruling most of that country in a bid to compel it to hand him over to the U.S. for trial.
U.S. investigators believe bin Laden may have been linked in some way to the bombing of the U.S. Navy destroyer USS Cole in Yemen on Oct. 12, which killed 17 sailors.
Sheikh Abu Hamza al-Masri, a London-based Muslim cleric sympathetic to bin Laden who has campaigned for al Fawwaz' release, said Friday Britain was acting as a "puppet of America" by cooperating with the U.S. in the extradition request.
Speaking by telephone, Abu Hamza accused the British authorities of purposefully making the extradition decision during the Muslim fast-month of Ramadan, when Muslims were preoccupied.
He asked why it was necessary for al Fawwaz to face charges in the U.S. rather than in Britain.
"There's enough law in this country to judge anybody if he's guilty of any crime, but if he's sent to America that means America has become the center of the anti-Islamic movement ... [and] naked aggression against Islam and Muslims.
"Because Mr. Bin Laden is on the wanted list of the Americans it doesn't mean that people have to be guilty of association if they have seen him before or are known to him," he argued when asked about his own links to the wanted Saudi militant.
"Mr. Bin Laden is now being used to punish and scare the Muslim population. That will fire back [backfire] on America."
Already, Abu Hamza said, American citizens were finding their security compromised.
"The Americans are feeling now close to being cursed all over the world. They have to protect themselves everywhere they go. There's not much room in people's hearts for them anymore."
He warned that Muslims will react strongly if al Fawwaz is harmed. "We will ask the people to retaliate for him if he has been hurt. I think Muslim people ... know that they need to take any law into their hands and only care about Islamic law.
"The Muslims should also practice force to any limit they can," Abu Hamza said.
"Unfortunately, operations like in Yemen [the Cole bombing] is the only way for people to listen to Muslim voices and appeals."