LONDON – Radical Islamic cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri appeared in British court Tuesday and was charged with urging followers to kill non-Muslims, a move that pre-empted a U.S. extradition bid.
British prosecutors read out a 16-count indictment that includes 10 charges of soliciting or encouraging others to murder people who do not believe in the Islamic faith.
Al-Masri faces 11 terrorist charges in the United States. The British charges pre-empt a U.S. extradition bid.
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Only one of the 16 charges read out in Belmarsh Magistrates Court on Tuesday falls under anti-terror legislation. That indictment accuses al-Masri of possessing a book called the Encyclopedia of the Afghani Jihad.
Prosecutors said the incitement to murder was contained in speeches recorded on tape to be used as evidence. Four of the 10 charges specify that al-Masri urged the killing of Jews.
Hamza also faces four charges of using “threatening, abusive or insulting behavior” to stir up racial hatred and one count of possessing threatening, abusive or insulting recordings.
Al-Masri nodded when asked if he understood the charges against him.
Lawyer Hugo Keith, appearing for the U.S. authorities, asked judge Timothy Workman to adjourn the extradition case until the domestic charges were dealt with.
Keith said American officials intended to ask for the extradition case to be resumed once the British case was over.
Al-Masri, 46, is former head preacher at London’s Finsbury Park mosque, which has been linked to terrorist suspects including alleged Sept. 11 plotter Zacarias Moussaoui and “shoe bomber” Richard Reid.
He was arrested in May after U.S. authorities laid 11 charges against al-Masri relating to terrorism, including allegedly trying to establish a terrorist training camp in Oregon, involvement in hostage-taking in Yemen and funding terrorism training in Afghanistan.
The Encyclopedia of Afghani Jihad, or holy war, is produced by Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida network and provides what the group calls the “basic rules of sabotage and terror” with highly technical detail, including diagrams.
A copy of the manual was obtained by The Associated Press in 2001 after it was reportedly stolen from the former headquarters of bin Laden’s organization in Afghanistan.
The preface to Mouswada al Jihad al Afghani, the Arabic name of the manual, says it is meant for use in the battle against “the enemies of our movement, the enemies of Allah, for any Islamic group.”