LONDON – A judge ordered the extradition Friday of an Algerian man suspected of links to Usama bin Laden and charged in the United States with masterminding a plot to blow up the Los Angeles airport.
A federal grand jury in New York indicted Amar Makhlulif, also known as Haydar Abu Doha, in August, and prosecutors described him as a key figure in bin Laden's Al Qaeda terrorism network.
American prosecutors allege he developed a plan to bomb the Los Angeles airport during celebrations to usher in the year 2000 and helped send would-be terrorists to training camps in Afghanistan.
District judge Timothy Workman, at the high-security Belmarsh Magistrates Court in southeast London, ruled there was sufficient evidence to approve extradition to the United States for trial.
"I am satisfied that these charges are extraditable crimes," Workman said. "There is in my view ample evidence on which a jury, properly directed, could conclude that the activities and intention were directed toward murder and causing grievous bodily harm."
Abu Doha can appeal the decision to the High Court, a move Alison MacDonald, a spokeswoman for the defense team, said his lawyers were considering.
Home Secretary David Blunkett must also give final approval to any extradition.
The millennium bomb plot was foiled in December 1999, when police arrested an alleged coconspirator, Ahmed Ressam, while he was trying to enter Washington state from Canada in a car loaded with explosives.
Ressam was convicted last year on nine charges, including smuggling and terrorist conspiracy.
He is testifying against others accused of terrorism in hopes of reducing his prison sentence, and his cooperation is said to have been crucial to the case against Abu Doha, to whom he has said he had owed his allegiance.
Workman said he had carefully considered Ressam's evidence and believed it was clear that both Ressam and Abu Doha were at the Al Qaeda-affiliated Khalden Camp in Afghanistan, where they were allegedly trained in the use of explosives and assassination.
"There is clearly evidence of transporting explosives from Canada into the United States and planning to retaliate against the United States and other countries," Workman said.
Andrew Colman, a British prosecutor arguing for the United States, said at a court hearing last month that Abu Doha had arranged trips to training camps in Afghanistan for new terrorism recruits, giving them money, false identifications and travel documents.
Colman said Abu Doha was believed to have met bin Laden in Kandahar, Afghanistan, to discuss planned terror operations in the United States and Israel.
He was arrested in February 2001 at London's Heathrow Airport, where prosecutors say he was waiting for a flight to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, and carrying a Spanish passport.
Abu Doha's lawyer Ben Emmerson has said a U.S. trial would be a "flagrant denial of justice."
Eight witnesses for Abu Doha would not be prepared to give evidence in the United States, he said, adding that heavy publicity there would pose "an irrevocable threat of unfairness" in the case.
He said American authorities had indicated Abu Doha would not face the death penalty. But he said Muslim defendants are held in "intolerable conditions" in the United States and argued that the possibility of a life sentence without parole would amount to "inhumane and degrading treatment."
Prosecutors say Abu Doha would receive a fair trial.