UK & World News

  • 20 May 2014, 9:49

Abu Hamza Faces Life In Jail After NYC Verdict

Extradited British cleric Abu Hamza has been found guilty of terrorism charges in the United States.

The radical preacher faced 11 charges in total, including conspiring to set up a terror training camp in Oregon, conspiring to kidnap Americans in Yemen and providing support to terrorist organisations.

At a federal court in New York, the jury convicted him on all counts. He could face life in prison when he is sentenced.

Hamza, whose real name is Mustafa Kamel Mustafa, has already served a UK prison sentence for using his sermons at the Finsbury Park Mosque in London to incite murder and racial hatred.

He was extradited to the US in 2012 after a protracted legal battle and had been awaiting trial since then.

Home Secretary Theresa May has welcomed the guilty verdict, saying it proves Britain was right to extradite him to the US to face the charges.

Mrs May said: "I am pleased that Abu Hamza has finally faced justice. He used every opportunity, over many years, to frustrate and delay the extradition process."

The prosecution said Hamza, 56, used the cover of religion to export terror and violence across the world.

In a court room just blocks from Ground Zero, the jury watched an interview in which Hamza celebrated the 9/11 attacks and the hijackers.

Prosecutor Edward Kim told the court: "His cause was war and it was all consuming ... his goal was simple and it was clear and it was vicious."

The court heard how Hamza conspired to set up an al Qaeda-style training camp in Bly, Oregon, without ever setting foot in America.

Inspired by his sermons, a Seattle-based follower called James Ujaama thought the remote area with permissive gun laws would make a perfect training ground for fighters intent on waging holy war.

Ujaama, who served a prison sentence in connection with his role at the camp, but who secured early release in exchange for co-operation with the US government, told the court that Hamza's backing for the camp would be a "star attraction".

He said: "Abu Hamza's view on the physical jihad training was that it's obligatory, every Muslim should engage in it."

Hamza, who told the court he lost both hands in an accident while working as a contractor for the Pakistani military, was also charged with conspiring to kidnap American tourists in Yemen in 1998.

Prosecutors said Hamza provided a satellite phone and advice to the Islamic militants, who kidnapped 16 tourists including 11 Britons and two Americans.

Laurence Whitehouse and his wife Margaret were among those kidnapped. Margaret died during the kidnapping, as Yemeni soldiers launched an attack upon the hostage takers.

An inquest later ruled that Margaret was most likely shot by the hostage takers during the heavy firefight.

Mr Whitehouse told Sky News: "My wife died a hero. She was helping (Australian hostage) Andrew (Thirsk) to stop his bleeding. She was lying on the floor next to him, with bullets flying.

"It's justice for the other people who were also killed, and also a sort of sense of justice for the hostages who were lucky enough to survive, including me."

Hamza's lawyers argued that the cleric acted as an intermediary to negotiate the release of the hostages.

They also said their client was guilty only of holding offensive views, and revealed in court that during his time in London, Hamza had acted as a kind of consultant to the British intelligence services.

He was often called upon, they said, to use his contacts and ease tensions to "keep the streets of London safe".

Hamza's lawyers say they will appeal against the guilty verdict.

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