Latest update: 07/10/2012
Terror suspect Abu Hamza appears before US court
Radical Islamist preacher Abu Hamza al-Masri appeared in court in the United States on Saturday a matter of hours after being extradited from Britain. The judge ordered that Hamza, who faces a number of terrorism charges, be held in detention.
A partially blind Egyptian-born preacher and four other terrorism suspects appeared in federal courts Saturday, hours after they were transported to the U.S. from Britain after losing their fight against extradition.
The preacher, Abu Hamza al-Masri, entered no plea to charges of conspiring with Seattle men to set up a terrorist training camp in Oregon and of helping abduct 16 hostages, two of them American tourists, in Yemen in 1998.
Al-Masri has hooks in place of hands, but he came into court without them and both arms exposed through his short-sleeved blue prison shirt. His court-appointed lawyer, Sabrina Shroff, asked that his prosthetics be immediately returned “so he can use his arms.”
The four other extradited men pleaded not guilty. Khaled al-Fawwaz and Adel Abdul Bary appeared alongside al-Masri in New York and Syed Talha Ahsan and Babar Ahmad were arraigned in New Haven, Conn., to charges that they provided terrorists in Afghanistan and Chechnya with cash, recruits and equipment.
Lawyers for both al-Fawwaz and Bary noted the ailments of their clients and said they were concerned that they get their medication. The lawyers did not seek bail for their clients though Bary’s attorney reserved the right to do so in the future.
Ahsan, 33, and Ahmad, 38, were kept detained while they await trial in Connecticut, where an Internet service provider was allegedly used to host a website. Their lawyers declined to comment.
Ahmad made efforts to secure GPS devices, Kevlar helmets, night vision goggles and camouflage uniforms, prosecutors said.
Al-Masri, a one-time nightclub bouncer, will be housed in Manhattan along with Khaled al-Fawwaz, 50, a citizen of Saudi Arabia, and Adel Abdul Bary, 52, an Egyptian citizen, who will face trial on charges that they participated in the bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa in 1998.
The attacks killed 224 people, including 12 Americans. They were indicted in a case that also charged Osama bin Laden. U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara called the extraditions “a watershed moment in our nation’s efforts to eradicate terrorism.”
He added: “As is charged, these are men who were at the nerve centers of Al Qaeda’s acts of terror, and they caused blood to be shed, lives to be lost, and families to be shattered.”
In the 1990s, al-Masri turned London’s Finsbury Park Mosque into a training ground for extremist Islamists, attracting men including Sept. 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui and “shoe bomber” Richard Reid.
In England, lawyers for the 54-year-old al-Masri, said he suffers from depression, chronic sleep deprivation, diabetes and other ailments.
The overnight trip to the United States came after a multi-year extradition fight that ended Friday, when Britain’s High Court ruled that the men had no more grounds for appeal and could be sent to the U.S. immediately. The men have been battling extradition for between eight and 14 years.
“I’m absolutely delighted that Abu Hamza is now out of this country,” British Prime Minister David Cameron said. “Like the rest of the public I’m sick to the back teeth of people who come here, threaten our country, who stay at vast expense to the taxpayer and we can’t get rid of them.”
“I’m delighted on this occasion we’ve managed to send this person off to a country where he will face justice,” he added.
Al-Masri has been in a British jail since 2004 on separate charges of inciting racial hatred and encouraging followers to kill non-Muslims.
(FRANCE 24 with wires)