In Britain, frustration over why fiery radical Muslim preacher Abu Hamza al-Masri remained a free man for so many years went all the way to the top of society to the queen, the BBC revealed — a revelation the network has subsequently apologized for.
A day after a European human rights court cleared the way for the extradition from Britain to the United States of al-Masri and four other terrorism suspects, the BBC has said it's sorry for disclosing that Queen Elizabeth II had been upset that the Egyptian-born cleric could not be arrested.
The BBC issued a statement apologizing for "the breach of confidence."
On a radio show earlier today, BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner revealed details of a private conversation he'd had with the queen several years ago in which she expressed concern and frustration that al-Masri could not be arrested and that she had discussed the matter with a former home secretary.
Buckingham Palace and the Home Office both refused to comment on the apology or the reported conversation.
Al-Masri was eventually arrested in 2004 and has fought extradition to the U.S. ever since. He faces terrorism charges in the United States, including allegations that he set up a terrorist training camp in Oregon.
He and the other four men say they would face torture and inhumane conditions in U.S. prisons, in violation of European human rights law — an argument the European Court for Human Rights dismissed Monday, paving the way for their extradition in the coming weeks.
The one-eyed, hook-handed al-Masri rose to prominence in Britain for his fiery anti-Western sermons. Among those who attended the north London mosque where he preached were Zacarias Moussaoui, one of the Sept. 11 attackers, and "shoe bomber" Richard Reid.
The other four suspects now set to be extradited to the U.S. are Babar Ahmad and Syed Tahla Ahsan — accused of running a jihadist website — and Khaled al-Fawwaz and Adel Abdul Bary — who are accused of being key aides to former al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.