Islamic Cleric Lied in Claim to Be Peacemaker, U.S. Says

Abu Hamza al-Masri, a Muslim cleric on trial in the U.S. for supporting the al-Qaeda network, lied when he testified that he was a peacemaker whose call for jihad wasn’t meant to promote violence, a prosecutor told jurors.

Abu Hamza, who once preached at London’s Finsbury Park Mosque, is accused in Manhattan federal court of providing material support to al-Qaeda by dispatching followers to establish a terror training camp in Oregon and at least one man to train in Afghanistan. The U.S. also says he gave a satellite phone to kidnappers for a deadly 1998 kidnapping in Yemen.

During closing arguments today, Assistant U.S. Attorney Ian McGinley told jurors that Abu Hamza, 56, deceived them during the three days he testified in his defense. Abu Hamza, who denies wrongdoing, faces life in prison if convicted of the most serious of 11 charges.

“Oregon, Afghanistan, Yemen -- these were the defendant’s choices,” McGinley said. “Yet when he testified in this courtroom, he ran from all those choices and decisions that were at the core of his devotion to jihad. He ran, saying he was just misunderstood.”

Abu Hamza, who was granted British citizenship in 1986, was extradited to the U.S. in 2012. He was convicted in the U.K. in 2006 of inciting followers to murder Jews and other non-Muslims in sermons he delivered at the mosque from 1997 to 2000. He was sentenced to seven years in prison.

After McGinley concluded his summation, a defense attorney, Jeremy Schneider, began delivering Abu Hamza’s.

The case is U.S. v. Mustafa, 04-cr-00356, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

To contact the reporter on this story: Patricia Hurtado in Federal Court in Manhattan at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at David Glovin, Stephen Farr

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