Belfast Telegraph

Home News UK

Abu Hamza guilty: Radical Muslim cleric found guilty of terror charges by US court

The radical Muslim cleric Abu Hamza has been found guilty of terror charges by a US court.

The Egyptian Islamic preacher was brought to the United States on charges that he supported terrorism around the world from a London mosque.

Jurors in federal court in New York City returned their verdict Monday in the case against Abu Hamza.

The verdict came only weeks after another preacher, who served as al-Qaida's spokesman immediately after the September 11 attacks, was convicted.

Prosecutors cited speeches and taped interviews to show that Hamza - tried under the name Mustafa Kamel Mustafa - conspired to aid terrorist organisations, including al-Qaida.

Prosecutors say he aided kidnappers of 16 tourists in Yemen in 1998 and tried to build an al-Qaida training camp in Oregon in 1999.

Hamza insisted during testimony that he never supported terrorism.

Abu Hamza - profile

Muslim cleric Abu Hamza once appeared to embrace Western society.

He worked as a bouncer in a Soho nightclub and had a reputation for socialising and heavy drinking when he came to Britain from Egypt in the mid-1980s

The 56-year-old, born in Alexandria, studied civil engineering and in 1984 married a British woman, Valerie Fleming.

But throughout the 1980s he slowly began to turn towards a fundamentalist interpretation of the Koran.

In February 2006 Hamza was jailed in the UK for seven years for soliciting murder and inciting racial hatred.

He was held in the maximum-security Belmarsh prison in Woolwich, south east London.

It has been suggested that racial abuse of his son turned him into a critic of Western life.

In 1990 he divorced his wife and returned to Egypt where he reinvented himself as a Muslim "holy man", or sheikh. He travelled to Pakistan and then on to Afghanistan, which was at the time gripped by civil war as differing factions fought to fill the power vacuum left by the retreat of Soviet troops.

It is unclear if he fought there but when he returned to the UK with his British passport in the early 1990s, he was missing his right hand and an eye. He claims he lost the hand fighting jihad in Afghanistan.

In 1996 he re-emerged at Finsbury Park Mosque in north London preaching jihad to a young congregation.

Then in January 1999 three British tourists were killed in Yemen, drawing public attention to the civil war between fundamentalists and the secular government there, which accused Abu Hamza of using his mosque to recruit Islamic warriors to the fundamentalist cause.

He was alleged to have been the leader of a cell called Supporters of Sharia and was accused of sending his son, Mustafa Kamel, to Yemen where he and five other British Muslims were convicted on terrorist charges. Yemen said that it wanted him extradited.

But Hamza continued to court controversy. Following the September 11 2001 attacks in the US, he said: "Many people will be happy, jumping up and down at this moment."

From his prison cell he has fought extradition, claiming the prospect of solitary confinement in one of the US's "supermax" high-security jails and sentences of life imprisonment without parole would breach a European ban on "torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment".

But human rights judges ruled that there would be no violation of the European Human Rights Convention if the UK extradited the five to the US to face a range of terrorist charges.

In October 2012, he was finally extradited to the US but it was not until April this year that his trial on terrorism charges opened.

Belfast Telegraph Digital

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph