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European court ends era of safe harbor for Abu Hamza

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US officials describe him as a “terrorist facilitator with a global reach." In 2004, he was arrested by UK authorities after an indictment from the US.

The European court blocked Hamza’s extradition in 2008 just days before he was scheduled to leave. That decision inflamed British opinion and led to calls for greater British sovereignty, and later for the Cameron government to pull out of the Strasbourg, France-based body that has often ruled against extradition when not convinced a prisoner will not face torture or ill treatment after transfer.

The British press has often portrayed the European court as a set of pointy-headed do-gooders who want to mollycoddle terrorists. Some of that sentiment was evident in London's Daily Mail today, which wrote that the court’s “rag tag judges – many of whom have no judicial experience and are simply political appointments, academics or human rights enthusiasts – are also extremely adept at … making the law entirely as they see fit.”

Mark Ellis, executive director of the London-based International Bar Association, took issue with this characterization, saying the court’s judges are “serious and substantive from a legal point of view,” and argued the key issue is “whether you want to have a court where human rights issues are heard, or not.”

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