Radical Islamist cleric speaks only once in court appearance in which he is granted the return of his artificial limbs
Radical Islamist cleric Abu Hamza and four other terrorism suspects appeared in front of US judges on Saturday, having arrived on American soil in the middle of the night following extradition from Britain.
Hamza, Khaled al-Fawwaz and Adel Abdul Bary all appeared in New York, in a downtown-Manhattan courtroom; Babar Ahmad and Syed Talha Ahsan were put in front of a judge in New Haven, Connecticut.
Hamza, who has gained notoriety as a firebrand preacher with hooks for hands, had his prosthetic limbs confiscated by the Bureau of Prisons. He appeared in front of Judge Frank Maas with his bare stumps on display as he was read his rights. He then listened to a long list of terror charges filed against him, ranging from kidnapping in Yemen to supplying the Taliban.
Hamza's lawyer, Sabrina Shroff, asked the court to return her client's medical devices as soon as possible as he could not bathe without them.
"Otherwise he will not be able to function in a civilised manner," she told the judge, who then granted that they be returned.
Hamza wore simple blue prison garb and was unshackled during the court appearance. He seemed calm when in court and anxious only when discussing his medical needs with his lawyer. He spoke to the judge only once, saying "I do" when asked if he could affirm the details of a financial affidavit he had filled out.
Earlier, al-Fawwaz and Abdul Bary, dressed in similar prison clothes and seeming calm but serious, both pleaded not guilty to a similarly lengthy list of terror charges. In Connecticut, Ahmad and Ahsan likewise pleaded their innocence.
The men were deported on Friday night, aboard two planes which left a military airbase in Suffolk, UK, after the high court rejected their final appeals earlier in the day. They touched down in the US around 2.30am on Saturday.
Abu Hamza faces 11 charges in the US, relating to hostage taking, conspiracy to establish a militant training camp and calling for holy war in Afghanistan.
His lawyers argued he was not fit to be deported on health grounds but UK judges rejected his appeal, paving the way for his immediate removal from the UK.
The British prime minister, David Cameron, has expressed his delight that Hamza had finally been deported from Britain.
"Like the rest of the public I'm sick to the back teeth of people who come here, threaten our country, who stay at vast expense to the taxpayer and we can't get rid of them," he said. "I'm delighted on this occasion we've managed to send this person off to a country where he will face justice."
Cameron said the government must consider ways of stopping similar cases occurring.
The high court also threw out challenges by Babar Ahmad, Syed Ahsan, Khaled al-Fawwaz and Adel Abdul Bary after ruling they did not show "new and compelling" reasons to stay in the UK.
Speaking after the US-bound flights had taken off the British home secretary, Theresa May, said: "I am pleased the decision of the court today meant that these men, who used every available opportunity to frustrate and delay the extradition process over many years, could finally be removed.
"This government has co-operated fully with the courts and pressed at every stage to ensure this happened. We have worked tirelessly, alongside the US authorities, the police and the prison service, to put plans in place so that tonight these men could be handed over within hours of the court's decision. It is right that these men, who are all accused of very serious offences, will finally face justice."
After three days of legal argument, Sir John Thomas, president of the Queen's Bench division, and Mr Justice Ouseley lifted injunctions that had been preventing the men's removal.
The decision is the culmination of an eight-year legal battle that has strained the government's constitutional relationship with the European court of human rights in Strasbourg and frustrated politicians as well as the lord chief justice.
The cases have involved appeals through the hierarchy of British and European courts, then back to the royal courts of justice in London.
Delivering judgement, Thomas said: "All of these claimants have long ago exhausted the [legal] procedures in the UK. There's an overwhelming public interest in the proper functioning of the extradition arrangements in the US. It's important to recognise the finality of these proceedings."
Thomas said extradition proceedings should take months not years and that the process had been "disfigured" by protracted delays. He said there was "no appeal from our decision and the home secretary will be free" to extradite them.
Four of the five suspects had claimed that harsh prison conditions in the high-security unit of ADX Florence jail in Colorado, where they may be imprisoned, would breach their human rights. It was said Abu Hamza would not have to spend too long at the facility, because of his many medical conditions.
The 54-year-old Hamza, who was jailed for seven years for soliciting murder and inciting racial hatred, has been fighting extradition since 2004. His lawyers opposed deportation on the grounds that he was suffering memory loss and depression and was unfit to plead. They sought permission for the former imam at Finsbury Park mosque in north London to be given an MRI scan to assess his medical condition.
Ahmad, 37, a computer expert, and Ahsan, 33, are accused of raising funds for terrorism through a website. Lawyers for the two men challenged the director of public prosecutions' decision not to charge them with offences allegedly committed in the UK.
Fawwaz, who is alleged to have been an aide to Osama bin Laden in the 1990s, was seeking disclosure of an 800-page British secret service document relating to the debriefing of another suspect which, his lawyers maintain, would undermine the charges against him.
Bary, 52, is also said to have worked closely with Bin Laden. His barrister argued that conditions in US high-security jails would breach his rights under the European convention on human rights – a claim already dismissed by the Strasbourg court.
Bary and Fawwaz are wanted in relation to the bombings of US embassies in east Africa in 1998.
Hamza will next appear in a New York courtroom on Tuesday for a pretrial hearing.