News

Jurors hear cleric’s praise for 9/11 attacks

Jurors hear cleric’s praise for 9/11 attacks

ON TRIAL:Islamist cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri is seen in this courtroom sketch standing with his lawyer Jeremy Schneider where he pleaded not guilty to criminal charges in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, Oct. 9, 2012, after he was extradited from the U.K. Photo: Reuters

By Joseph Ax

NEW YORK (Reuters) – In a video of radical Islamic cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri shown to jurors at his trial on Monday, he did not hesitate when a television interviewer asked him about the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States that killed nearly 3,000 people.

“Everyone was happy when the planes hit the World Trade Center,” Abu Hamza said in the undated film played in a U.S. court where the former imam of the Finsbury Park Mosque in London faces terrorism-related charges.

Prosecutors have accused the one-eyed, handless Abu Hamza of trying to set up a jihadist training camp in Oregon, giving assistance to militants who took 16 Western tourists hostage in Yemen in 1998, a kidnapping that ended with the deaths of three Britons and an Australian, and raising money and supplies for al Qaeda in Afghanistan.

If convicted of the most serious charges, the Egyptian-born Abu Hamza would face life in prison. He previously served several years in prison in Britain for inciting his followers to kill non-believers.

Extradited from Britain in 2012 under the condition that he would be tried in civilian court and not face the death penalty,

Abu Hamza is expected to testify in his own defense in Manhattan federal court. The trial began last week and is expected to last about a month.

Defense lawyers have argued that Abu Hamza, known for his fiery sermons in London, is responsible only for using inflammatory words, not for any overt criminal acts.

Prosecutors intend to use his rhetoric against him via video and audio recordings that show him denouncing non-Muslims and preaching Islamic fundamentalism and encouraging followers to become militants.

Lawyers for Abu Hamza, who is using his birth name of Mustafa Kamel Mustafa during the trial, objected to the recordings as unduly prejudicial. But U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest ruled last week that most of the tapes can be shown to the jury as evidence of his state of mind.

Prosecutors also played several other tapes, some in Arabic, for the jurors, who were given English transcripts. Some of the tapes were seized from the Finsbury Park mosque or from Abu Hamza’s residence.

Abu Hamza lost both hands and one eye in Afghanistan in the 1980s and was known in London for wearing a prosthetic metal hook on his right arm. In court, he has taken notes with a pen wedged in his hook.

(Reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Grant McCool)

Recent Headlines

in Music

Weezer star’s life to be turned into TV comedy

Fresh
weezer

The series will follow the fortunes of a 30-something rock star who walks away from the spotlight.

in Music

Martin Scorsese to helm Ramones documentary

Fresh
ramones

Multiple projects, including a film will celebrate the 40th anniversary of the iconic punk band's debut album.

in Entertainment, Trending, Viral Videos

TODAY’S MUST SEE: Jimmy Kimmel’s ‘Friends’ reunion

Fresh
14-overlay8

WATCH: Jimmy Kimmel wrote some "Friends" fan fiction and got Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox and Lisa Kudrow in on the act.

in Weird

Crocodile attacks couple during late-night dip

crocodile2

For the first time in Florida history a crocodile attacked a pair of late-night swimmers near an upscale suburb.

in Viral Videos

7 smartphone photography tricks

Updated
18-overlay7

Upgrade from the selfie with these seven awesome photo tricks.