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article imageFiery Islamic cleric guilty of terrorism after U.S. trial

By Nathan Salant     May 19, 2014 in Crime
New York - A radical Islamic cleric from Britain faces life in prison after being convicted Monday of 11 terror-related charges in a New York courtroom.
Mustafa Kamel Mustafa of London, also known as Abu Hamza al-Masri, was found guilty of involvement in the 1998 kidnapping of tourists in Yemen, of trying to set up a terror training camp in Oregon and of aiding the Taliban and al-Qaida in Afghanistan.
Mustafa, who operated a mosque in London and was known for outrageous remarks, was an early web user and posted jihadi recruitment material online to attract followers, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Prosecutors alleged during trial that, as a preacher, Mustafa compared nonbelievers to animals and said it was acceptable to behead or enslave them, the Journal said.
Some Mustafa's remarks were so inflammatory that his own defense lawyers asked the jury to be careful not to convict the preacher for his words.
Mustafa called Osama bin Laden "a hero" and once said, "everybody was happy when the planes hit the World Trade Center,” Cable News Network (CNN) said.
"The deliberations confirmed our fears they would focus on words and ideas rather than the evidence," said defense attorney Jeremy Schneider told CNN after the verdict was announced.
But federal prosecutors vehemently disagreed with that characterization.
"The defendant stands convicted, not for what he said, but for what he did," U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said after the verdict.
"Abu Hamza [Mustafa}was not just a preacher of faith, but a trainer of terrorists," Bharara said.
The guilty verdict came after two days of deliberations by a federal jury in Manhattan, blocks from where al-Qaida terrorists flew hijacked airliners into the World Trade Center, destroying buildings and killing thousands in 2001.
Mustafa's trial lasted one month, marking the second major high-profile civilian terror prosecution this year.
In March, former al-Qaida spokesman Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, bin Laden's son-in-law, was convicted of conspiring to kill Americans and of aiding al-Qaida.
A third trial, of three men accused of helping to plan the bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa in 1998, is scheduled to begin later this year, CNN said.
Federal prosecutors relied on evidence from lower-level suspects who were promised money, protection and leniency in exchange for their testimony, CNN said.
But the government also introduced voice-mail messages and telephone records that supported its claims that Mustafa played prominent roles in the Yemen kidnapping, the training camp and sending at least one follower to Afghanistan, CNN said.
Prosecutors also presented evidence that Mustafa's Finsbury Park Mosque in London became a meeting place for notorious Islamic figures in the 1990s and early 2000s, CNN said.
Zacarias Moussaoui, the so-called 20th hijacker from Sept. 11, and shoe bomber Richard Reid were seen there, CNN said.
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