Monday 23 April 2018

Hate cleric Hamza found guilty on terror charges in New York

Radical Islamic cleric Abu Hamza. Photo: PA
Radical Islamic cleric Abu Hamza. Photo: PA
A courtroom drawing of Abu Hamza, testifying in his own defence at federal court in New York (AP)

Philip Sherwell New York

THE notorious hate preacher Abu Hamza is likely to die behind bars in a maximum-security US prison after a New York jury convicted him over a series of terrorism charges.

The conviction marks the final stage of a ten-year battle to have Hamza extradited from the UK.

It is believed that Theresa May, the British Home Secretary, will now begin moves to strip Hamza of his British citizenship, making him 'stateless' and formally ending his 34-year connection to the UK.

A jury sitting just half-a-mile from Ground Zero in lower Manhattan found the former imam of Finsbury Park mosque in north London guilty of 11 counts after a five-week trial.

His charges related to organising terror camps in the US, hostage-taking in Yemen and sending one of his followers from London to train with al-Qa'ida in Afghanistan.

Hamza (56) looked impassively forward in the courtroom as the verdicts were read, then bowed his head and sat back in his chair.

When his defence lawyer asked, "are you okay", he simply said "yes".

He will be sentenced at a hearing on September 9, two days before the 13th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks.

The judge is expected to hand down a life sentence which he will almost certainly serve in the federal "supermax" high-security prison in Colorado that houses several other convicted terrorists.

The guilty verdicts are a major victory for British and US authorities and followed a lengthy battle over his extradition from the UK which began in 2004 but which was only finally carried out in 2012.

The verdict does, however, raise questions for British security services. Last night, it was claimed that Scotland Yard and MI5 ignored warnings that Hamza was establishing an hub of terrorism in the heart of London back in 1999.

Read Hassaine, an Algerian who was paid by MI5 to spy inside the Finsbury Park mosque said the mosque was in 1999 an "al-Qa'ida guesthouse in London" from where Hamza radicalised young men and sent them all over the world to carry out jihad. He warned his handlers but they refused to take action, he claims.

Speaking from Algeria, where he still lives in fear of retribution from al-Qa'ida years after his role was exposed, Mr Hassaine said: "He was emboldened and to my ever-growing frustration the British authorities were taking little notice of my warnings. The security services seemed incapable of putting it in its proper al-Qa'ida context.

"They continued to view it as a little local skirmish by a clown," he said.

Hamza built a reputation as one of Britain's most prominent radical imams at the Finsbury Park mosque. Prosecutors told the jury that he used the mosque as the base of operations for a global terror network to dispatch followers for jihad training.

His fiery sermons drew high-profile militants such as Richard Reid, the Briton who tried to blow up a jetliner in 2001 using a bomb hidden in his shoe, and Zacarias Moussaoui, one of the 9/11 plotters. Both men are already serving life sentences in the "supermax" prison.

Hamza was convicted of three groups of charges. The jury agreed with prosecutors that he assisted Islamic rebels in Yemen who took 16 tourists hostage in 1998 in an incident that ended in the deaths of three Britons and an Australian.

He was found guilty of providing material support to al-Qa'ida by sending cash to the group and dispatching a follower from Finsbury Park for jihad training in Afghanistan in 2001. And the jury also convicted him of trying to set up a terrorist training camp in Oregon in 1999.

Although Hamza was not charged in connection with the 9/11 attacks, they were a constant backdrop to proceedings and the jury heard taped excerpts of the cleric praising al-Qa'ida's founder bin Laden.

The cleric was extradited in 2012 to the US after a lengthy legal battle that cost British taxpayers millions of pounds.

He was first detained in London 2004 and then served six years in prison after he was convicted of inciting racial hatred and soliciting murder at the Old Bailey in 2006. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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