Radical preacher launches appeal

A radical Islamic preacher jailed for inciting murder is beginning an appeal against his convictions.

Abu Hamza al-Masri, 48, says he was denied a fair trial because of a media campaign and delays in his prosecution.

Abu Hamza was jailed for seven years in February for soliciting to murder and inciting racial hatred.

Prosecutors said he had acted as a recruiter for Islamist extremists from Finsbury Park mosque, in north London, before it was shut down by police.

A Bad, Bad Apple

Abu Hamza verdicts, Feb. 2006:

Guilty of 6 charges of soliciting to murder

Guilty of 3 charges related to “stirring up racial hatred”

Guilty of 1 charge of owning recordings related to “stirring up racial hatred”

Guilty of 1 charge of possessing “terrorist encyclopaedia”

Not guilty of 3 charges of soliciting to murder

Not guilty of 1 charge related to “stirring up racial hatred”

Selected News Items:

The Egyptian-born cleric, who is being held at Belmarsh high-security prison, was jailed after being found guilty of 11 out of 15 charges, including six for soliciting to murder and three charges of stirring up racial hatred. He was further convicted of owning a “terrorist encyclopaedia”.

The charges related to what prosecutors said were a series of inflammatory speeches and recordings he made as a preacher at Finsbury Park mosque and other locations.

According to his legal team, the preacher was not able to get a fair trial because of media coverage of his activities both before and during the trial.

They are also expected to say the decision to prosecute him for speeches made more than six years ago was politically motivated, arguing that the authorities knew of his activities and had chosen not to charge him in the past.

Meetings with MI5

During his month-long trial, Abu Hamza told the Old Bailey the speeches at the centre of the prosecution had been well known to the authorities, including MI5.

Special Branch officers had seized the tapes from his home in the 1990s and he had a series of discussions with the authorities about his views and intentions.

The preacher left those meetings believing that he would not be facing prosecution because police officers returned his recordings and other documents, he told the court

However, prosecutors successfully argued he had used Finsbury Park mosque as a secure base from which he could act as a recruitment sergeant for global terrorism.

They said he was preaching racial-hatred against Jews and other non-Muslims and had owned a multi-volume “terrorism manual” known as the Encyclopaedia of Afghan Jihad.

This, said Abu Hamza, was one of the documents given back to him after police had seized it.

Granting his application for an appeal in July, three judges said his arguments against the conviction should be heard in full.

“We do not wish to raise any false optimism in the applicant but in our judgement there are a number of grounds drawn to our attention which are arguable,” said Sir Igor Judge.

“In our judgment, the impact of the pre-trial publicity and the publicity during the trial itself on the fairness of the proceedings generally should be considered by the full court, with particular reference to the fact that the crimes of which the applicant was convicted took place before 2000 and the decision to prosecute him was delayed until 2004.”

Extradition battle

The two-day appeal is being heard by the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Phillips, sitting with Mr Justice Penry-Davey and Mr Justice Pitchford, at London’s Court of Appeal.

The preacher also faces a continuing battle against extradition to the United States.

US prosecutors allege he was involved in trying to establish a terrorist training camp.

The extradition attempt has been postponed until the outcome of the appeal.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Monday October 30, 2006.
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