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Europe rights court rules terror suspects will not face torture if extradited to US

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] ruled Tuesday that five terrorism suspects facing extradition from the UK to the US will not face inhumane prison conditions [judgment text] in the US. The court held that British citizens Syed Talha Ahsan, Babar Ahmad [advocacy website; BBC profile], Saudi-born Khaled Al-Fawwaz and Egyptian-born radical Muslim cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] will not experience prison conditions in the US in violation of Article 3 the European Convention on Human Rights [text] provisions on the prohibition of torture and inhumane or degrading treatment, as well as on sentence duration. All five men are wanted in the US on terrorism charges and, if extradited, would face imprisonment without parole at ADX Florence [BOP backgrounder], a super-maximum security prison in Colorado. In finding that the prison conditions would not be considered torture, the court said that solitary confinement may be appropriate for security reasons and that the men would have opportunities for recreation and outdoor exercise. The court also adjourned the case examination of another suspect, Haroon Rashid Aswat, pending more information from the parties concerning the effect of mental illness on his potential US detention. While the ECHR decision could lead to the men's extradition, the court recommended that the UK wait until further court notice to extradite the suspects.

This week's decision marks a change from the ECHR's position two years ago, when the court stayed the extradition [JURIST report] of four of the terrorism suspects, holding that potential punishment could violate European Convention on Human Rights provisions on the prohibition of torture and inhumane or degrading treatment. The UK High Court approved the extradition [JURIST report] of Aswat and Ahmad to the US in 2006. Aswat is wanted in the US on suspicion of setting up a terrorist training camp and Ahmad is wanted for conspiring to kill Americans and running a website used to fund terrorists and recruit al Qaeda members. The extraditions were approved only after the US offered assurances that it would not seek the death penalty, try the suspects before military tribunals or declare them enemy combatants. A British court approved the extradition [JURIST report] of Hamza in 2007. Hamza, who is currently serving a seven-year sentence in the UK [JURIST report] for urging his followers to kill Jews and other non-Muslims, faces US charges of attempting to establish terrorist training camps in Oregon, conspiring to take hostages in Yemen, and helping terror training in Afghanistan.

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