On 17 October 2015, Haroon Aswat, who was extradited to the United States from the United Kingdom in January 2015, having fought extradition for several years, was sentenced by the US Manhattan Federal Court to 20 years’ imprisonment for terror crimes. A report is here.
The US government alleges that in November 1999, Mr Aswat travelled to Oregon in the US, to help set up and run a jihadi training camp; the trip is said to have been arranged by Abu Hamza. In July 2005, Mr Aswat was arrested in Zambia, and deported to the UK, where he was arrested on a provisional warrant pursuant to a request made by the US government.
On 12 September 2005, a US federal grand jury returned an indictment against Mr Aswat, charging him with four counts of criminal conduct arising out of his participation in the activities of the Oregon training camp. On 29 September 2005, the US government requested the extradition of Mr Aswat to stand trial on that indictment in the US District Court, Southern District of New York.
Judicial Proceedings: UK and the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR)
On 5 January 2006, the Senior District Judge sitting at Westminster Magistrates’ Court decided that there were no bars to Mr Aswat’s extradition, and the Secretary of State ordered his extradition. Mr Aswat appealed to the High Court, and his appeal was dismissed on 30 November 2006.
The House of Lords subsequently also refused permission to appeal. On 10 June 2007, Mr Aswat lodged an application with the ECtHR. At this time, Mr Aswat’s mental and behavioural state deteriorated and he was admitted to Broadmoor Hospital in March 2008.
On 16 April 2013, the ECtHR ruled that the extradition of Mr Aswat to the US would breach Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), solely on account of the severity of his mental condition (rather than the length of his possible detention there). The UK appealed for the case to be considered by the Grand Chamber, but this was refused on 11 September 2013.
On 12 September 2013, the Secretary of State announced her decision not to withdraw the extradition order, based on further information presented to her by the US Department of Justice. On 16 April 2014, the High Court held that the reservations expressed by the ECtHR, with respect to Article 3 ECHR, should no longer stand. This was in view of the specific assurances and additional information provided by the US government to the UK government.
Mr Aswat was extradited to the US on 21 October 2014. On 29 January 2015, the ECtHR declared inadmissible a further application by Mr Aswat, challenging the sufficiency of the US government’s assurances; the EtCHR found that the concerns raised by the ECtHR in its 2013 ruling had been directly addressed by the comprehensive assurances and additional information received by the government of the UK from the US government. The ECtHR press release is here.
Manhattan Federal Court Ruling, 16 October 2015
Mr Aswat pleaded guilty in New York on 30 March 2015 to one count of conspiring to provide material support to Al Qaeda, and one count of providing material support to Al Qaeda.
On 16 October 2015, Mr Aswat was sentenced by US District Judge Katherine Forrest, sitting at the Manhattan Federal Court to 20 years’ imprisonment. It was also ordered that he be given specialised psychiatric care while in custody. The press release is here.
It is likely that Mr Aswat will serve six years’ imprisonment, having already spent approximately ten years in UK and US custody. Mr Aswat’s lawyer has stated that he is considering whether to appeal. In any event, it is expected that Mr Aswat will apply to serve his sentence in the UK.