Abu Hamza Held for Arraignment in Al-Qaeda Terrorism Case

Abu Hamza al-Masri, the Islamic cleric accused of helping Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda network, faces arraignment on terrorism charges in the U.S. on Oct. 9 after fighting extradition for more than eight years.

Abu Hamza, 54, is charged in an 11-count indictment with supporting the Taliban with money and troops and aiding a 1998 kidnapping in Yemen that left four hostages dead. He was one of five suspects extradited from the U.K., three of whom appeared yesterday in federal court in New York and the two others in Connecticut.

“These are men who were at the nerve centers of al-Qaeda’s acts of terror, and they caused blood to be shed, lives to be lost, and families to be shattered,” U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in Manhattan said in a statement. “After years of protracted legal battles, the extradition of these three alleged terrorists to the U.S. is a watershed moment in our nation’s efforts to eradicate terrorism.”

The accusations against Abu Hamza, who the U.S. identifies as Mustafa Kamel Mustafa, include trying in 1999 to start a terrorist training camp in Bly, Oregon. He appeared yesterday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Frank Maas in Manhattan.

Four other men, Khalid al-Fawwaz, Adel Abdel Bary, Babar Ahmad and Syed Ahsan, were also denied their bids in the U.K. on Oct. 5 to block extradition to the U.S. The five left RAF Mildenhall airport in two planes that day just before midnight, the Metropolitan Police Service said in an e-mailed statement.

2:45 A.M. Arrival

Hamza, al-Fawwaz and Bary, arrived at Westchester County Airport north of New York City in a Gulfstream V aircraft, the FBI said. Assistant U.S. Attorney Sean Buckley told Maas that all three had arrived in the U.S. from the U.K. at about 2:45 a.m. yesterday.

Abu Al-Fawwaz, 50, and Bary, 52, both entered not guilty pleas through their defense lawyers and were arraigned by Maas. Abu Hamza, who is charged in another case, appeared in court before Maas separately after the hearing for al-Fawwaz and Bary.

Maas ordered the three men detained. All three are scheduled to appear before federal judges in New York on Oct. 9.

Andrew Patel, a lawyer for Bary, and Jerrod Thompson-Hicks, a lawyer for Al-Fawwaz, asked Maas to direct that both men receive medical attention. Bary has asthma while Al-Fawwaz has high blood pressure and a stomach issue, their lawyers said.

Sabrina Shroff, a lawyer for Abu Hamza, asked that he be evaluated by a doctor.

Nairobi, Dar es Salaam

Al-Fawwaz and Bary are charged in a 1998 indictment with being part of a global conspiracy with bin Laden to attack U.S. citizens, including the near-simultaneous bombings of U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, on Aug. 7, 1998.

The embassy attacks killed 224 people, including 12 U.S. citizens. More than 4,500 people were injured.

Ahmad, 38, and Ahsan, 33, are charged by federal prosecutors in Connecticut with conspiracy and providing material support to terrorists. They appeared yesterday before U.S. District Judge Janet Hall in New Haven and pleaded not guilty, according to court records. Both face life in prison if convicted of conspiracy. They were ordered held without bail and an initial status conference was set for Oct. 15.

Born in Egypt and granted British citizenship in 1986, Abu Hamza was indicted in April 2004. He was arrested by the Metropolitan Police in London in May 2004 at the request of the U.S. His U.K. lawyers had sought to delay his extradition on health grounds.

Block Extradition

Abu Hamza was sentenced by a U.K. court in 2006 to seven years in prison for encouraging his followers in sermons from 1997 to 2000 to kill Jews and other non-Muslims.

He sought to block his extradition to the U.S. for eight years through a series of court cases that concluded last month with a ruling by the Human Rights court in Strasbourg, France, refusing to consider claims that U.S. prison conditions would be inhumane.

Abu Hamza appeared in court yesterday wearing navy blue jail fatigues. He is missing both of his hands and wrists and has two reddish stumps that end midway through to his forearms.

Shroff, his federal defender, told Maas that her client had his prosthetics removed after he was taken into U.S. custody. She asked the judge that they be returned and that he be evaluated by a doctor at the Metropolitan Correctional Center, the federal jail in Lower Manhattan or be sent to a prison hospital.

Special Shoes

Shroff told Maas that her client suffers from high blood-pressure and diabetes and requires special shoes needed to help him balance. Maas said he would direct U.S. Bureau of Prisons officials to give Abu Hamza proper medical care.

The hostage-taking charges against Abu Hamza could carry the death penalty or life in prison, then-U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft said at a news conference in May 2004.

Al-Fawwaz had fought extradition for 14 years. The U.S. has been seeking Bary’s extradition since July 1999 when he was arrested in London.

U.S. prosecutors have said al-Fawwaz worked with bin Laden in 1994 and helped establish a media information office in London that publicized bin Laden’s statements. He also helped recruit the group’s military trainees and provided assistance, including disbursing funds and equipment, the U.S. alleged.

Bin Laden’s Phone

Al-Fawwaz obtained a satellite phone in New York that bin Laden used to communicate with his followers before the 1998 embassy attacks, prosecutors have said.

Bary’s fingerprints were found on statements that took responsibility for the embassy bombings, according to U.S. prosecutors. The documents included a declaration issued by bin Laden in February 1998, inciting violence and war against U.S. citizens. The papers were found during a police search in an office in London that Bary rented, the U.S. has said.

The extraditions “are a major milestone in our effort to see these alleged high-level terrorists face American justice,” Mary Galligan, the FBI’s acting assistant director-in-charge, said in an e-mailed statement. “The indictments allege the direct participation of these defendants in planning and carrying out some of the most odious acts of al-Qaeda terrorism.”

Five other men have been convicted in federal court in New York for charges tied to bin Laden’s conspiracy to attack U.S. nationals and installations.

Ahmed Ghailani was convicted at trial in November 2010 of one count of conspiracy for his role in the embassy attacks. Four co-defendants, were convicted of all charges against them, including joining an al-Qaeda conspiracy to kill U.S. nationals and all 224 counts of murder. The five are serving life terms in prison.

The cases are U.S. v. Mustafa, 04-cr-00356, and U.S. v. al-Fawwaz, 98-cr-01023, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

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