Sun, Jan 11, 2015 - Page 6 News List

Radical cleric given life sentence

Reuters, NEW YORK

A courtroom sketch shows Abu Hamza, center, seated with his defense lawyers Sam Schmidt, left, and Lindsay Lewis, right, in the US District court in Manhattan, New York, on Friday.

Photo: Reuters

Radical London cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri was sentenced to life in a US prison on Friday for his conviction on terrorism-related charges, including his role in the 1998 kidnapping of Western tourists in Yemen that left four hostages dead.

US District Judge Katherine Forrest in Manhattan imposed the sentence on the one-eyed, handless Abu Hamza, 56, who jurors in May last year found guilty of providing a satellite phone and advice to the kidnappers.

Abu Hamza was also convicted of sending two followers to Oregon to establish a militant training camp, as well as of dispatching an associate to Afghanistan to aid al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

“You have not expressed sympathy or remorse,” Forrest told Abu Hamza, adding that only a life sentence would ensure he could never again incite violence against innocent people.

Prior to being sentenced, Abu Hamza told the judge: “I still maintain my innocence.”

Abu Hamza gained notoriety for his incendiary sermons at the Finsbury Park Mosque in London, which US and UK authorities said helped inspire a generation of militants, including would-be shoe bomber Richard Reid.

British tabloids dub him “Hook,” for the prosthetic metal hooks he uses in place of his missing hands.

Defense lawyers asked Forrest to order that Abu Hamza be housed in a medical facility, rather than a “supermax” prison where his disabilities might not be treated properly.

Forrest said she would let prison officials decide where he should be sent.

Abu Hamza, whose real name is Mustafa Kamel Mustafa, testified in his defense at trial. He denied sending anyone to Oregon or Afghanistan and claimed that he only acted as an intermediary during the Yemen kidnapping in search of a peaceful resolution.

He also talked of how he had lost his hands during an accidental explosion in Pakistan while working as an engineer, contradicting reports that he lost his limbs while fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

His fiery speeches were used against him at his trial and also at his sentencing, where Forrest cited instances in which he justified killing non-Muslims and praised the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people in the US.

“Abu Hamza’s blood-soaked journey from cleric to convict, from imam to inmate, is now complete,” Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement.

Prior to his 2012 extradition, Abu Hamza had spent eight years in prison in Britain for inciting violence.

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