Abu Hamza convicted of terrorism charges in New York

British cleric guilty of 11 charges in US as verdict marks end of 10-year legal battle

Courtroom deputy Joseph Pecorino (right) reads the verdict alongside Judge Katherine Forrest (background) and Abu Hamza al-Masri (left), the radical Islamist cleric facing U.S. terrorism charges. Photograph: Reuters

Courtroom deputy Joseph Pecorino (right) reads the verdict alongside Judge Katherine Forrest (background) and Abu Hamza al-Masri (left), the radical Islamist cleric facing U.S. terrorism charges. Photograph: Reuters

 

The fiery British cleric who prosecutors said had “devoted his life to violent jihad” and had dispatched young men around the world to train and fight, was convicted of 11 terrorism-related charges yesterday in Manhattan.

Prosecutors had charged that the cleric, Mostafa Kamel Mostafa – better known as Abu Hamza al-Masri – a former imam at the Finsbury Park mosque in North London, helped to orchestrate the violent 1998 kidnappings of 16 US, British and Australian tourists in Yemen; had tried to create a terrorist training camp in Bly, Oregon; and had supported terrorism by sending one of his followers to train with al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.


Hostages killed
In the tourist abductions, four hostages were killed after their captors, a militant group allied with Abu Hamza, used them as human shields during a Yemeni rescue operation.

The verdict, which came on the jury’s second day of deliberations in US district court, marked the end of a lengthy legal battle to bring Abu Hamza to trial. Arrested in London in 2004 after the US requested his extradition, Abu Hamza was tried and convicted in Britain in 2006 on separate charges, of soliciting murder and inciting racial hatred.

He served a prison sentence, and after fighting extradition unsuccessfully, he was sent in 2012 to the US to face terrorism charges in New York.

Last week, Abu Hamza took the witness stand in his own defence, and testified over several days, denying that he had played a role in the kidnappings, the planning of the training camp in Oregon or that he had dispatched followers to assist al-Qaeda.

His lawyers argued that the government’s case was based on their client’s words, “not his deeds”. Prosecutors had introduced statements by Abu Hamza , in which he spoke approvingly of al-Qaeda’s 2000 bombing of the US destroyer Cole in Yemen, called Osama bin Laden “a hero” and said “everybody was happy when the planes hit the World Trade Center”.

But prosecutors tied Abu Hamza (56) to the kidnappings through what they said were admissions he made in an interview with one of the rescued hostages, and records showing Abu Hamza had received calls on a satellite phone he had provided to the militants the day before the hostage-taking and after it was under way.

Abu Hamza’s words mattered, prosecutor Ian McGinley told the jury: “because they match his actions. They match his crimes. They’re exactly what you would expect from a man who was so proud and so public about jihad.” – (New York Times service)