NEW YORK – A federal jury in New York found Islamic cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri guilty of charges that he aided terrorists in incidents that span the globe, from a remote Oregon ranch to the dusty desert of the Arabian Peninsula, CNN reported on Tuesday.
Al-Masri faced 11 criminal counts for allegedly aiding kidnappers during a 1998 hostage-taking in Yemen; sending a young recruit to militants in Afghanistan; violating US sanctions against the Taliban; and attempting to establish an al Qaida-style training camp on the West Coast of the United States.
The jury deliberated for more than 12 hours over two days. Al-Masri was found guilty on all counts, and showed no discernible reaction as the verdict was read. “The defendant stands convicted, not for what he said, but for what he did,” said Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara, describing al-Masri as not just a preacher of faith, but a trainer of terrorists.
“Once again our civilian system of justice has proven itself up to the task of trying an accused terrorist and arriving at a fair and just and swift result.” The high-profile London mosque leader gained ‘prominence’ for the metal hook he's sometimes depicted wearing in place of one of his missing hands, but he sported only an occasional writing prosthesis in the Manhattan courtroom.
Contrary to stories that he lost the limbs in battle, al-Masri testified, his maiming was the result of an engineering accident. The government's three-week case against al-Masri was an effort to connect the dots between the defendant and events thousands of miles away, through key witnesses who often had never met the cleric themselves and testified in exchange for leniency or protection.
A trial highlight was al-Masri taking the stand in his defence and accusing federal prosecutors of using ‘pay-as-you-go’ witnesses and a ‘cut-and-paste’ approach to take inflammatory comments out context, including statements about his admiration for late al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.