- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 7, 2006

LONDON — A firebrand Muslim cleric whose mosque was linked to September 11 plotter Zacarias Moussaoui and “shoe bomber” Richard C. Reid was sentenced to seven years in prison yesterday after being convicted of fomenting racial hatred and inciting followers to kill non-Muslims.

Terrorism-related charges against the one-eyed, hook-handed cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri also are pending in the United States. In Washington, Justice Department spokesman Bryan Sierra said: “The United States stands ready to resume the extradition proceedings against Abu Hamza when British law allows.”

The jury found al-Masri guilty of 11 of 15 charges against him, including soliciting murder, stirring racial hatred, possessing a terrorist document and possessing threatening or abusive recordings.

Al-Masri, Britain’s best-known Islamist orator, was sentenced to seven years in prison for soliciting murder, the most serious charge. He faced a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

The cleric, whose real name is Mustafa Kamel Mustafa, will serve his sentences on the other charges concurrently.

Judge Anthony Hughes told the cleric that he helped persuade his followers that they had a “moral and religious duty” to kill.

Though asked to stand for the reading of the verdict, the 47-year-old cleric sat down once the first guilty verdict was read.

A supporter in the public gallery shouted, “God bless you, Sheik Hamza,” as the cleric was led out of the courtroom. Others shouted to him in Arabic.

The cleric’s attorneys said he planned to appeal. Muddassar Arani said al-Masri thought he was “a prisoner of faith, and this is a slow martyrdom for him.”

During the trial that began Jan. 11, al-Masri took the stand and denied any involvement in violence, but said he condoned suicide bombings in some cases.

Al-Masri was the former imam at London’s Finsbury Park mosque, which gained notoriety through his fire-and-brimstone preaching and links to terrorist suspects Reid and Moussaoui, who admitted in April that Osama bin Laden ordered him to train to fly a jetliner into the White House. A U.S. federal court is picking a jury that will decide Moussaoui’s sentence.

Authorities in Britain and the United States say al-Masri was at the center of a web of terrorist activity from the 1990s until police raided the mosque in 2003.

Al-Masri has been charged in the United States on an 11-count indictment with trying to establish a terrorist training camp in Oregon, conspiring to take hostages in Yemen and facilitating terror training in Afghanistan.

Under British law, the domestic charges took precedence over the extradition case.

The cleric, who claims to have been maimed fighting Soviet troops in Afghanistan, became a high-profile radical and a hate figure for British tabloids, who called him “Hooky” and “Dr. Hook.”

After he was expelled from the mosque by administrators in 2003, he led Friday prayers on the street outside until his 2004 arrest on a U.S. extradition warrant.

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