Islamist cleric from Britain to appear in U.S. court

Sat Oct 6, 2012 1:38pm GMT

By Basil Katz

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Islamist cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri will appear before a federal judge in New York on Saturday after Britain extradited the one-eyed radical preacher to the United States to face trial and a potential life sentence on terrorism charges.

The Egyptian-born Abu Hamza, 54, is accused by Washington of supporting al Qaeda, aiding a kidnapping in Yemen and plotting to open a training camp for militants in the United States.

He was flown late on Friday to the United States along with four other men also wanted on U.S. terrorism charges. Federal prosecutors in Manhattan said on Saturday that Hamza and two of the others would make an initial appearance in Manhattan federal court later in the day.

A fiery anti-Western speaker, Abu Hamza is said to have inspired some of the world's most high-profile militants including Zacarias Moussaoui, one of the accused September 11, 2001 conspirators.

The cleric was once a preacher at the Finsbury Park Mosque in north London, but was later jailed in Britain for inciting murder and racial hatred.

Hamza was indicted by a federal grand jury in Manhattan in April 2004. He is accused of involvement in a 1998 hostage-taking in Yemen that resulted in the deaths of four hostages - three Britons and one Australian.

He was also accused of providing material support to al Qaeda by trying to set up a training camp for fighters in Oregon in the United States and of trying to organize support for the Taliban in Afghanistan.

If convicted, Hamza could face up to life in prison.   Continued...

Muslim cleric, Abu Hamza al-Masri, is seen leading prayers at the North London Central Mosque, in Finsbury Park, north London in this February 7, 2003 file photo. REUTERS/Matt Dunham/Files
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