Posted: Oct 2, 2012 5:05 AM by CNN Wire Staff
(CNN) -- Radical Muslim cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri finds out Tuesday if he can avoid extradition from Britain to the United States to face terrorism charges.
Al-Masri, whose followers included the so-called "shoe bomber" Richard Reid and who once called al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden a "hero," faces 11 charges in U.S. courts.
The charges include conspiracy in connection with a 1998 kidnapping of 16 Westerners in Yemen, and conspiring with others to establish an Islamic jihad training camp in rural Oregon in 1999.
He faces a potential life sentence if convicted.
Last week, after almost a decade of legal battles, the European Human Rights Court ruled that the cleric and four other suspects could be sent to the United States. The men's lawyers appealed the ruling.
A two-judge panel at London's High Court now decides whether the defendants' lawyers can show new and compelling reasons to stop the extradition.
Born in Egypt in 1958, al-Masri travelled to Britain to study before gaining citizenship through marriage in the 1980s.
A one-time nightclub bouncer in London's Soho district, al-Masri -- also known as Mustafa Kamal Mustafa -- has said he lost both hands and one eye while fighting against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. He often wore a hook in place of one hand.
In 1997, al-Masri became the imam of a north London mosque, where his hate-filled speeches attacking the West began to attract national attention and followers, including Reid, the so-called "shoe bomber" who attempted to blow up a Miami-bound passenger airplane three months after the September 11 terrorist attack in 2001.
Al-Masri has called the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center "a towering day in history" and described bin Laden "a good guy and a hero."
He also described the Columbia space shuttle disaster in 2003 as "punishment from Allah" because the astronauts were Christian, Hindu and Jewish.
The cleric is one of the highest-profile radical Islamic figures in Britian, where he was already sentenced to seven years for inciting racial hatred at his north London mosque and other terrorism-related charges.
Last week's decision, which was signed by seven judges from different European nations, followed a ruling this spring in which the same court likewise said that Hamza and four other terror suspects could be extradited.
The court determined, then and now, that the suspects would not get "ill treatment" in super-maximum security prisons if they are extradited to the United States and convicted in American courts, according to the European court's decision Monday.
That ruling noted that conditions in such U.S. prisons were in some ways better for inmates than in Europe, given that they'd have access to things like television, newspapers, social visits and hobby-related items. It acknowledged the prisoners may be confined in their cells most of the time, but said this is warranted given the charges they face.
In addition to al-Masri, the four others who are up for extradition to the United States are Syed Thala Ahsan, Adel Abdul Bary, Khaled Al-Fawwaz and Babar Ahmad.