Sunday 22 April 2018

American identifies terror accused

Mustafa Kamel Mustafa, better known as Abu Hamza, is on trial in the US on terror charges
Mustafa Kamel Mustafa, better known as Abu Hamza, is on trial in the US on terror charges

A man has told a jury in New York that an Egyptian cleric on trial on terrorism charges is the "very angry" imam he met in London years ago.

David Smith, the second witness in a Manhattan trial expected to last a month, identified Mustafa Kamel Mustafa, better known as Abu Hamza, as he testified for the government about an effort to open an al Qaida training camp in Oregon and about his visit to London's Finsbury Park Mosque.

Mustafa, 55, is charged with conspiring to support al Qaida before and after the September 11 2001 attacks.

The government said he tried to open a terrorist training camp in Oregon in 1999, a year after supporting kidnappers who took hostages in Yemen. Four hostages were killed.

The Finsbury Park Mosque attracted hundreds of young men, including September 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui and failed shoe bomber Richard Reid.

Mustafa has pleaded not guilty and plans to testify.

Mr Smith said he converted to Islam from Christianity in 1997 and began attending a Seattle mosque, where a fellow convert introduced him to Mustafa's video and audio tapes.

He said he made a trip to England, where he witnessed Mustafa's lectures and discussed Islam with him for about 45 minutes.

He recalled Mustafa as "very angry, very fiery" in speeches that emphasised expelling non-Muslims from the Arabian Peninsula by force if necessary.

Mr Smith said Mustafa told his followers they would be filled with so much zeal on the battlefield that "it would make you want to throw your AK-47 and run up to the non-believer and bite him".

Of martyrs, he recalled Mustafa saying: "The blood of the martyr is holier than the ink of the scholar."

Mr Smith testified he went to a Bly, Oregon, ranch where the government said Mustafa wanted to build an al Qaida training camp. He said he and others wanted to escape Seattle and "have a chance to practise our religion and not feel like we were being surrounded by non-Muslims".

He said the ranch was like a retreat and during guard duty "we were supposed to be watching out for coyotes".

The relaxed atmosphere dissatisfied men sent by Mustafa to Oregon, he said, with one telling him he was "very, very unhappy" because "he came to do something and nothing was going on".

"He was displeased with Abu Hamza's decision to send him there," said Mr Smith, who is cooperating with the government.

Asked by Assistant US Attorney John Cronan if he now practises any religion, he answered: "No, I don't."

The testimony came a day after opening statements in the trial of the cleric extradited in 2012 from England.

Press Association

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