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Thursday, June 13, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Abu Hamza Pleads Not|Guilty to Terror Charges

MANHATTAN (CN) - Radical Islamic cleric Abu Hamza pleaded not guilty Tuesday for his alleged role in the 1998 kidnapping of 16 tourists in Yemen.

Hamza also denies charges that he conspired to create al-Qaida training camps in Bly, Ore., and Afghanistan until late 2001. The 11 counts could send the preacher to jail for life.

Hamza had just been extradited from England where he is serving seven years for soliciting murder and inciting racially motivated hatred and violence.

As the leader of London's notorious Finsbury Park Mosque, Hamza delivered incendiary sermons calling for the murder of non-Muslims and supporting Osama bin Laden.

After appearing in the Southern District of New York for the first time on Saturday for presentment, Hamza entered the courtroom of U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest for arraignment Tuesday.

The cleric, usually photographed with a metal hook, reportedly lost both his hands and one of his eyes on a landmine in Afghanistan.

He appeared Tuesday without his prostheses, wearing a short-sleeved blue jumpsuit exposing the stumps at the end of his arms.

At the brief hearing, Forrest swore in Jeremy Schneider as Hamza's court-appointed defender and set a preliminary trial date for Aug. 26, 2013.

Both parties referred to Hamza by his birth name, Mustafa Kamel Mustafa, at his request.

Schneider told the court: "It is my hope, my plan and my eagerness to do this case."

Assistant U.S. Attorney John Cronan said discovery would be brief because prosecutors already amassed evidence from a related case. Cronan said he planned to turn over 8,500 pages of documents and 24 DVDs to the defense this month.

With discovery currently set to end by early December, the initial trial date was planned for April 2013. Schneider had asked the judge to postpone its opening because he is currently the defending suspected gang members in federal trials slated for January and June 2013.

Judge Forrest agreed to push back the date until the end of August, excluding the delays from speedy-trial considerations.

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