Hate preacher Abu Hamza guilty on US charges

19th May 2014, Comments 0 comments

Jurors in the New York trial of British hate preacher Abu Hamza on Monday found him guilty of kidnapping and terrorism offenses.

The former imam of the north London Finsbury Park mosque, real name Mustafa Kamel Mustafa, showed no reaction to the verdict, which carries a possible life sentence. He is to be sentenced September 9.

The charges against him pre-dated the 9/11 attacks on New York and were over the 1998 abduction of 16 Western tourists in Yemen, four of whom were killed in a military rescue operation.

He was also accused of trying to set up a terrorist training camp in the United States in 1999, and of promoting "violent jihad" on a global scale.

The jury deliberated for 12 hours over two days before reaching a verdict, after a four-week trial in which Abu Hamza took the stand for three days of testimony in his own defense.

Blind in one eye and with no hands after an accidental explosion in Pakistan, the 56-year-old had denied all the charges, though he acknowledged he occasionally used strong words in his sermons and fiery speeches -- numerous extracts of which were played for the jury.

He admitted supplying a satellite to the Islamist group that kidnapped the Western tourists in Yemen, but said he was only told of the abduction after the fact.

He also said he threw in the trash a fax in which a young man who attended his mosque told him of plans to build a jihad training camp in Oregon in 1999. He said he didn't know another of the young men at his mosque had left to fight in Afghanistan.

Prosecutor Ian McGinley said last week in his closing statement that the evidence against Abu Hamza was "simply overwhelming."

Defense lawyer Jeremy Schneider dismissed what he said was the "quantity of irrelevant evidence," and said Abu Hamza was being tried for "his words in general, not his deeds."

Abu Hamza, a father of nine and an engineer by training, became the imam at Finsbury Park in 1997, where he preached vitriolic sermons, in particular against the United States.

The mosque closed in 2003.

Abu Hamza was arrested in August 2004 in Britain at Washington's request, and sentenced in a British court to seven years in jail in 2006 for inciting murder and racial hatred.

He was extradited to the United States in October 2012.

© 2014 AFP

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