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Abu Hamza al-Masri found guilty in terrorism trial

Radical Muslim cleric Abu Hamza leads Friday prayers

Radical Muslim cleric Abu Hamza leads Friday prayers outside the North London Central Mosque, on April 16, 2004 in London Credit: Getty Images

On just its second day of deliberations Monday, a federal jury in Manhattan convicted radical British Imam Abu Hamza al-Masri of terrorism charges for aiding a deadly 2009 kidnapping in Yemen and sponsoring a jihad training camp in Oregon.

Abu Hamza, a glass-eyed double amputee whose incendiary rhetoric made him a larger-than-life celebrity in London in the wake of Sept. 11, 2001, called for beheading infidels in tapes played at trial and praised Osama bin Laden during four days on the witness stand.

But the jury's foreman rejected defense claims that his Islamic radicalism and incendiary speech -- attracting worshippers like shoe-bomber Richard Reid to his Finsbury Park mosque -- stacked the deck at a trial just blocks from the former site of the Twin Towers.

"I disagree with that," foreman Howard Bailynson, a Xerox executive from Westchester County, told reporters after the verdict. "I think he got a fair trial. . . . If it was just preaching -- we do live in America. I probably would have found him not guilty."

Abu Hamza, 56, an Egypt-born former strip club bouncer also known as Mostafa Kamel Mostafa, was arrested in Britain in 2004 and convicted of solicitation of murder and inciting racial hatred there. He was extradited to the United States in 2012 after a long legal fight.

During the five-week trial, prosecutors presented evidence that he advised and gave a satellite phone to Islamist kidnappers who took 16 tourists hostage in Yemen in 1998. Four died when troops attacked. Survivor Mary Quin testified that Abu Hamza called the kidnapping a "good thing" from an Islamic standpoint when she later confronted him in London.

The government also called cooperator James Ujaama, who testified that Abu Hamza sent two trainers from London to the jihad camp Ujaama was starting in Bly, Oregon. He was also charged with sending acolytes to help al-Qaida and the Taliban in Afghanistan.

His lawyers contended that the evidence linking him to those acts was thin, but the wide latitude the government had in presenting his speeches to show his intent was fatal.

"The verdict was not about the evidence, but about visceral reaction to the defendant," defense attorney Josh Dratel said. "It's unfortunate that's what happened and it's what we feared."

But prosecutors said jurors saw through Abu Hamza's pose as a preacher. "Abu Hamza attempted to portray himself as a teacher of faith, but he was instead a trainer of terrorists," U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said.

In his appearance on the witness stand, Abu Hamza lectured jurors on Muslim oppression and Sharia law, and said he "loved" bin Laden. But he insisted he never approved of violence against innocents.

Juror Bailynson said the performance was impressive, but unpersuasive.

"I think he is a very well-spoken orator," the foreman said. "He gives speeches and is very able to articulate his thoughts and express himself. But there's areas he embellishes upon, and there's elements that contradicted evidence established by the prosecution."

Convicted of 11 counts of conspiracy and aiding terrorist groups, Abu Hamza faces up to life in prison. Sentencing was set for Sept. 9.

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