LONDON – British authorities have decided to charge a radical Muslim cleric with terrorist offenses, pre-empting a bid from the United States to try him on similar charges, a British news agency reported Friday.
Press Association said British charges were likely to be filed next week against Abu Hamza al-Masri (search), who faces 11 charges in the United States.
The Crown Prosecution Service (search) declined to comment on the report, saying only, "We can confirm that we have now advised the police of our decision in the case of Abu Hamza, and they will be taking appropriate action."
Metropolitan Police, who would be responsible for filing any charges, said only that they were considering the advice from the Crown Prosecution Service.
A full five-day extradition hearing on the U.S. warrant was scheduled to begin Oct. 19, but that almost certainly would be adjourned if British charges are filed.
Al-Masri, 46, is former head preacher at London's Finsbury Park mosque (search), which has been linked to terrorist suspects including alleged Sept. 11 plotter Zacarias Moussaoui (search) and "shoe bomber" Richard Reid (search).
He was arrested in May after U.S. authorities laid 11 charges against al-Masri relating to terrorism, including allegedly trying to establish a terrorist training camp in Oregon, involvement in hostage-taking in Yemen and funding terrorism training in Afghanistan.
Attorney General John Ashcroft had taken the lead in announcing the charges against al-Masri, telling a news conference: "Those who support our terrorist enemies anywhere in the world must know that we will not rest until the threat they pose is eradicated,"
The Egyptian-born cleric — who has one eye and hooks for hands, which he says were lost fighting Soviet troops in Afghanistan in the 1980s — participated in the half-hour hearing from the high-security Belmarsh Prison in south London, where he has been held since his arrest on May, 27.