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British cleric sentenced to two life sentences in terror case

Radical cleric Mustafa Kamel Mustafa, then known as

Radical cleric Mustafa Kamel Mustafa, then known as Sheik Abu Hamza al-Masri, addresses a fundamentalist Islamic conference in London in this 2002 file photo. Credit: AP / Alistair Fuller

A Manhattan federal judge on Friday sentenced radical British cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri to two life sentences in prison and refused the one-eyed double amputee's plea that she order prison officials to house him in a medical facility because of his disabilities.

"There is a side of you that is evil," U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest told the former imam of London's radical Finsbury Park mosque. "I don't believe the world will be safe with you in 10 years or 15 years."

Abu Hamza, 56, an Egyptian-born civil engineer, was convicted in May of providing advice and a satellite phone to aid a 1998 tourist kidnapping in Yemen that led to the death of four hostages, trying to establish a jihad training camp in Oregon and sending acolytes to aid the Taliban and al-Qaida.

Forrest said that even when he gets older, Abu Hamza's skill at fiery sermonizing that helped radicalize terror operatives, such as aspiring Sept. 11, 2001, hijacker Zacarias Moussaoui, would be as potent as ever.

"I could not think of a time when you would not yet again try to inspire others to do things that you could not do . . . and those actions would lead to the death of others," she said.

Abu Hamza and his lawyers conceded that he would spend most if not all of his life in custody, but they urged the judge to order special prison conditions based on his disabilities, which he testified last year resulted from an explosion during a 1993 engineering project.

The lawyers argued the United States promised Britain during lengthy extradition hearings that he would not be sent to the maximum security prison in Florence, Colorado, and asked Forrest to send him to a medical facility, or a prison where he could have a home health aide and specially designed toilet, sink and shower.

"My concern is to make sure it is not a back door for crucifixion, not a back door for torture," Abu Hamza, who also suffers from diabetes, told the judge. "Security issues should not be used to confiscate human rights issues."

But Forrest rejected the request, telling Abu Hamza the government made no explicit promises to Britain and prison officials were capable of finding an appropriate facility -- and reminding him that his disabilities were nothing new.

"You had these disabilities at the time you committed the crimes," she said. "You knew the risks."

In other remarks, Abu Hamza repeated calls he made at trial for an investigation to determine the actual cause of the collapse of the Twin Towers, and he continued to insist he was wrongly convicted.

"I do maintain my innocence from all these charges, and I do pray the Almighty allows the truth and my innocence to prevail," he said.

The judge, however, reminded him of speeches in which he called for killing infidels, and cited his cool demeanor when he was interviewed after the Yemen hostage-taking by Mary Quin, one of the hostages who survived.

"You have not expressed sympathy or remorse for the victims of the kidnapping," the judge said. "I believe you believe your actions were proper and you have not had a change of heart."

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