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March 31, 2014 4:36 pm

After Extradition Battle, London’s Finsbury Park Mosque Preacher Abu Hamza to Begin U.S. Terrorism Trial

avatar by Joshua Levitt

Abu Hamza, the head preacher of North London's Finsbury Park Mosque, being tried for links to terrorists. Photo: Screenshot.

Abu Hamza, the head preacher of North London's Finsbury Park Mosque, being tried for links to terrorists. Photo: Screenshot.

After a decade-long extradition battle, Abu Hamza, the head preacher of North London’s Finsbury Park Mosque, will begin his trial in the U.S. on April 14 on charges of supporting global terror, the UK Daily Mail reported on Monday.

U.S. federal prosecutors will charge the fiery Islamist preacher, who has one eye and a hook for a right hand, with 11 counts of criminal terrorism going back to 1998 and occurring in the U.S., Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

In their indictment, prosecutors said, “The [U.S.] government will show that the defendant was a terrorist leader of global reach who … sent his young lieutenants around the world to engage in terror training.” Prosecutors will also say Abu Hamza used the Finsbury Park Mosque as a recruiting base, inspiring jihadists with his hateful sermons and providing support to Al Qaeda from Britain, the Daily Mail said.

Court documents seen by the newspaper allege that one of his “lieutenants” from London was sent to Afghanistan for “violent jihad training” and said he was prepared to take part in attacks against American and Jewish targets.

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Hamza is separately accused of trying to set up a “jihad training camp” in Bly, Oregon where one of his followers is said to have penned a letter to Osama bin Laden saying, “We love you here.”

Hamza is also charged with involvement in a hostage-taking in Yemen, in 1998, that led to the deaths of three Brits and an Australian.

The preacher was first arrested in Britain, in May, 2004, on a U.S. extradition warrant and charged with 15 terrorism offences. In 2006, he was jailed for soliciting murder and stirring up racial hatred. He was extradited to America in 2012 after a costly and protracted legal battle invoking human rights law. He denies all the charges.

District Judge Katherine Forrest denied both the prosecution’s application to keep jurors’ names secret for their protection, and the defense’s application to ban any mention of the 9/11 attacks or former Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, claiming it would deny their client a fair trial.

The Daily Mail said the trial, scheduled to last six weeks, “could prove embarrassing for the British security services and previous governments who allowed the preacher to operate freely for years after he arrived here from Egypt, despite openly giving sermons praising Osama bin Laden in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.”

This week, Judge Forrest is expected to decide whether to accept key evidence against the preacher from an Al Qaeda informant, who would offer testimony via closed-circuit television from a secret location in Britain. The witness is Saajid Badat, a student from Gloucester, England, who pulled out of a plot to blow up a transatlantic airliner with a shoe bomb in 2001, the Daily Mail said.

Badat was convicted, but freed from jail for providing evidence against other terror suspects. His testimony helped to convict Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, Bin Laden’s son-in-law, at a separate trial in New York this month.

Badat has said that on a training trip to Afghanistan, in 1999, he met Saif al-Adel, Al Qaeda’s former security chief, who asked Badat if he knew Abu Hamza, which would show a link between the preacher and Al Qaeda leadership. Also, in Afghanisatan, Badat was asked, “whether he would be willing to engage in attacks against U.S. and Jewish targets outside of Afghanistan.”

The indictment against Abu Hamza said: “The witness’s testimony about al-Adel demonstrates that the defendant was well known to senior Al Qaeda leadership, and that the defendant was trusted by Al Qaeda to send them trainees.”

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