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Life Sentence for Unapologetic Hate Cleric

MANHATTAN (CN) - An armless, one-eyed imam received a life sentence for his role in a terrorist plot that left four dead, failing to evoke sympathy from the court as he droned on for 10 minutes about his health problems.

Defense counsel ate up most of the three-hour hearing by lobbying for a recommendation that their client, Mustafa Kamel Mustafa, better known as Abu Hamza al-Masri, be confined to a medical facility for the 11 counts of terrorism of which he was convicted in May.

Jurors had found that Mustafa, now 54, provided a satellite phone used in the 1998 hostage-taking of 16 U.S. and British tourists on a caravan in Yemen.

The Islamic Army of Eden, which employed Mustafa as their spokesman, claimed responsibility for the plot, carried out in a bid to free its followers, including Mustafa's stepson, from prison.

When Yemeni soldiers arrived the next day to try to free the hostages, the 20 terrorists armed with AK-47s, used the tourists as human shields, forcing them to stand on an embankment with their arms up while they fired at soldiers from between their legs.

One of the American tourists managed to wrestle an AK-47 from a captor and escape. Killed in the stand-off were Margaret Whitehouse, Peter Rowe, Ruth Williamson and Andrew Thirsk.

U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest gave Mustafa an opportunity to address the packed courtroom at the Friday morning hearing, time that the Londoner used to maintain his innocence and to complain of minor injuries he allegedly suffers in custody.

"I praise the Almighty," he said. "To Him we all belong. I pray that the Almighty to allow the full truth."

In addition to claiming that he suffers daily cuts while in custody, Mustafa says that the guards destroy most of the letters he writes to his family.

Though he made no apology to the victims of the kidnappings in his 10-minute speech, Mustafa worried about how his incarceration has affected his relatives. "Family is family," he said. "I've been used to torture them. It's unfair."

The diabetic terrorist also predicted that solitary confinement will affect his blood pressure.

"I just want a place where I can function as a prisoner," he said.

Forrest shot down the defense team's request that she recommend Mustafa for placement in a medical facility, saying she would rely on the Bureau of Prisons to assess the terrorist's health and place him accordingly.

"You did not express sympathy or remorse for the victims," Forrest said.

"It's barbaric, it's misguided, it's wrong," she said.

Mustafa, clad in black prison scrubs, nodded after he was sentenced, and walked unescorted out of the courtroom.

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara praised the outcome after the hearing.

"Abu Hamza's blood-soaked journey from cleric to convict, from Imam to inmate, is now complete," Bharara said in a statement.

The terrorist's four-week trial last year began after he already served time the United Kingdom for hate-speech crimes related to Finsbury Park mosque sermons in which he praised the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

In that capacity, Mustafa once threatened for all non-Muslims, or "infidels," to leave Yemen. Mustafa had warned that any "kaffir," a nonbeliever of Islam, in the "Muslim land" could be taken, captured, enslaved and sold.


"He's like a cow," Mustafa said, according to one of the government's sentencing briefs. "He's like a pig."

Mustafa told his followers, as quoted by prosecutors: "What will bring you honor? Unless you go and put his [a kaffir's] nose into the toilet. And you chop his head. And you take his wife as a booty. And you throw him in a stable. Then he will understand what honor Allah have given you."

After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Mustafa had said: "Everybody was happy when the planes hit the World Trade Center." He also supported the October 2000 bombing of the U.S.S. Cole in Yemen, which killed 17 American sailors.

The life sentence Mustafa received Friday additionally punishes his attempt to set up a "terror camp" in Bly, Ore., that would recruit and train young Americans to fight with Al Qaida and the Taliban in Afghanistan.

In the fall of 1999, a pair of Londoners whom Mustafa recruited to set up the camp conducted target practices, physical exercises, and even taught one 18-year-old how to slit a person's throat.

But the camp didn't last, and the two men took their efforts to a Seattle mosque, where they taught congregants to make silencers, assemble AK-47s, and how to fashion grenade-launchers from those weapons. They ultimately left the United States, the government says. One of the men was arrested in his home country of Sweden; the other joined up with al-Qaida.

UK authorities raided Mustafa's London home in May 2004 and found several items linking him to a "steadfast support for violent jihad," including a photograph of him standing next to Osama bin Laden.

An earlier search of the Finsbury Park Mosque, where Mustafa was the imam, turned up bin Laden's 1996 declaration of war against the United States, a suicide video of one of the hijackers, a gas mask and a hatchet.

Two years after his arrest in October 2004 by British authorities, Mustafa was guilty of soliciting to murder and using threatening and insulting words to "stir up racial hatred."

The effort to extradite Mustafa to the United States, as he served a seven-year sentence in the UK, finally paid off in 2012.

On May 19, a jury found him guilty on all 11 counts of the indictment against him.

In their Dec. 26 sentencing memorandum, Mustafa's defense urged Judge Forrest to fashion the term "in such a way that acknowledges the severity of his crimes but also the challenges that he will face that will make each day in custody significantly worse for him than for nearly any other criminal defendant."

"Mr. Mostafa simply requests that he be provided the accommodations necessary to provide him with a civilized measured of life's necessities," the brief from attorneys Michael Bachrach, Sam Schmidt and Lindsay Lewis states. "He does not seek the moon."

Though the government told Judge Forrest about Mustafa's misconduct while incarcerated, both in the United States and the UK, the defense labeled this an attempt to minimize the relevance of Defendant's objections."

They also asked that Mustafa receive a special "spork" attachment for his prosthetic arms; a "home" health aide; an occupational therapist; a special shower, toilet and sink; and special clothing and bedding for an alleged skin condition.

Assistant U.S. Attorney John Cronan wrote the competing brief, which asked Judge Forrest to hand down a life sentence for Mustafa's "years of terrorist conduct that spanned multiple continents."

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