Ex-associate paves the way for Abu Hamza’s arrest

Daily Telegraph (England), Apr. 16, 2003
By Sean O’Neill

Sheikh Abu Hamza, the extremist Muslim cleric, is facing imminent arrest on a US extradition warrant after a former close associate pleaded guilty to helping the Taliban.

Hamza claimed yesterday that James Ujaama, an American convert to Islam, had been coerced into giving evidence against him that would lead to “a gross miscarriage of justice”.

Ujaama, 37, who ran Hamza’s website and worshipped at his Finsbury Park mosque in north London, has struck a plea bargain agreement to give evidence against Hamza on terrorist allegations.

He has already supplied the US authorities, who have designated Hamza as a key al-Qa’eda recruiter in Europe, with information that they hope to use to indict the cleric.

Ujaama admitted to a court in Seattle that in late 2000, under orders from Hamza, he escorted Feroz Abbasi, a student from Croydon now detained at Guantanamo Bay, to an al-Qa’eda camp in Afghanistan “to undergo violent jihad training”. While in Afghanistan, Ujaama also delivered cash and installed software programmes on computers belonging to Taliban officials.

Ujaama pleaded guilty to conspiring to support the Taliban. Prosecutors in Seattle have asked that he be jailed for two years instead of the 10-year term applicable for the offence. Other charges against him were dropped.

John Ashcroft, the US attorney general, said he expected that Ujaama’s decision to co-operate with the authorities would “lead to the arrest of additional terrorists and the disruption of future terrorist activity”.

But in a statement issued through his solicitors, Hamza said the American prosecutors had been “exerting pressure” on Ujaama “in order to coerce him to facilitate evidence of the nature that they wished to be provided with”.

He added: “It comes as no surprise that James Ujaama under such pressure whilst on remand away from his family in the UK is likely to provide evidence which is tainted.”

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