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Why has it taken Britain eight years to extradite Abu Hamza?

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Julian Knowles, one of an elite group of barristers with the title of Queen's Counsel, says “a lot of the problems that have arisen here, and which have required litigation, are to do with just how savage the US sentencing system is and that gave the basis for Hamza to go to the European Court and say: ‘I will be held, if I am convicted, in solitary confinement, for the rest of my life in very harsh conditions, with probably no possibility of parole. I am a disabled man and have no arms and there will be very little granted to me to alleviate that.' ”

In April, the Strasbourg court ruled there would be "no violation" of the rights of Hamza and a number of others if they were put on trial in the US. And on Monday, the ECHR rejected the men's appeal, clearing the way for a possible end to the long legal saga.

After failing in Europe, Hamza is making a final stand in England, where judges issued an interim injunction Wednesday blocking the extradition and granting a court hearing for an appeal. Hamza’s legal team must show that there is some new and compelling factor that has not been already considered by previous court hearings.

Putting the case in perspective

Mr. Knowles says that while Hamza’s case is long, there have been longer extradition cases, including a French request that took 10 years.

“This case has taken a long time because the [ECHR] is very under resourced and has a backlog of cases, so by the time you go there you are building in up to a three-, four-year delay,” he says, adding that the extradition proceedings under English law also made the case a lengthy one.

Knowles also says that Hamza's eight-year saga is not a sign that Britain's extradition system is too weighted in favor of individuals fighting against their removal.  It's just the opposite, he says.

“The law is overwhelmingly in favor of the government seeking extradition. Very little has to be shown for the US to seek extradition, and in fact the controversy recently has been about whether it has been too easy for the US to get people from here as compared with if the UK was asking the US, where the hurdle is much higher.”

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