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

Taylor Swift named among world’s greatest leaders in new Fortune poll

Singer Taylor Swift attends the SNL 40th Anniversary Special at Rockefeller Plaza on Sunday, Feb. 15, 2015, in New York.

Taylor Swift ranks two spots behind Pope Francis in a new Fortune.com poll of the World's Greatest Leaders.

in Entertainment

‘Downton Abbey’ to end after season six

This photo released by PBS and Carnival Film and Television Limited shows, from left, Lesley Nicol as Mrs. Patmore, and Sophie McShera as Daisy, in a scene from season four of the Masterpiece TV series, "Downton Abbey." As it returns for its much-awaited fourth season, it remains a series about elegance, tradition and gentility, and the pressures of preserving them. The show premieres Sunday, January 5, 2014 at 9 pm ET on PBS.

Producers confirm that the next season of "Downton Abbey" will be the last.

in Music

Luke Bryan joins the Chicago White Sox

Luke Bryan poses in the press room with the award for entertainer of the year at the 48th annual CMA Awards at the Bridgestone Arena on Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2014, in Nashville, Tenn.

Luke Bryan joined the Chicago White Sox for spring training in Arizona.

in Music

Jana Kramer defends home state after Madonna criticism

The Academy of Country Music hosts a free all star concert for fans as country music artist Jana Kramer performs at the ACM Fremont Street Experience on Saturday, March 31, 2012, in Las Vegas.

Jana Kramer steps up to defend Michigan after Madonna slammed their home state in interviews.

in Entertainment

‘Empire’ co-stars spark romance rumors

gracegealey

Are Trai Byers and Grace Gealey more than just coworkers?