New York court begins today jury selection in the trial of Mustafa Kamel Mustafa, known as Abu Hamza al-Masri. Abu Hamza is facing 11 terrorism charges, including providing support to al-Qaeda and trying to set up an al-Qaeda training camp in Oregon.
Facts of the case date back to the late 1990s, when Abu Hamza allegedly conspired to set up a terrorist training camp in Oregon, to arrange for others to attend an al-Qaida training camp in Afghanistan, and to ensure there was satellite phone service for hostage takers in Yemen in 1998 who abducted two American tourists and 14 others. Three Britons and an Australian were killed then as the Yemeni military attempted to rescue the hostages.
At a pre-trial hearing last week, Abu Hamza declared that the will testify on his own behalf, telling US district judge Katherine Forrest “I think I am innocent. I need to go through it, have a chance to defend myself.” Prosecution evidence mainly include media interviews and recordings of Abu Hamza’s weekly speeches at Finsbury Park mosque (London).
Abu Hamza was first arrested in the United Kingdom in 2004 where he was found guilty of 11 charges, including encouraging the murder of non-Muslims, and intent to stir up racial hatred. Abu Hamza was sentenced to seven years in prison.
The same year of his conviction, the United States requested Abu Hamza’s extradition. Following a legal battle, the European Court of Human Rights finally authorized extradition after it was given assurances by the United States that Abu Hamza would neither be designated as enemy combatant (with the consequences that that entailed, such as the death penalty) nor subjected to extraordinary rendition. Abu Hamza was extradited on 6 October 2012. He appeared before the New York court on 9 October and pleaded not guilty to the 11 charges.