Trial date set for radical cleric in U.K.

LONDON (AP) — Radical Muslim cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri will stand trial beginning July 4 on charges including soliciting the murder of Jews and other non-Muslims, a judge decided Tuesday.

Judge Peter Beaumont set the date at a brief hearing at London’s Central Criminal Court but did not announce where the trial would be held.

Al-Masri had been scheduled to appear via a videolink from Belmarsh high-security prison in south London, but did not. Defense lawyer Paul Hynes said the cleric was unable to walk and referred to a “past physical difficulty.”

Adina Ezekiel, the attorney acting for the government, said colleagues had informed her that al-Masri claimed he couldn’t walk because his toenails were too long. She said prosecutors were “very cynical” about the claim.

British prosecutors charged al-Masri, Britain’s highest-profile Islamic radical, on Oct. 19, pre-empting a U.S. bid to extradite him on terrorism-related charges. Under British law the domestic charges, which carry a maximum sentence of life in prison, take precedence over the extradition case.

The Egyptian-born cleric — who has one eye and hooks for hands, which he says were lost fighting Soviet troops in Afghanistan in the 1980s — was arrested in May after U.S. authorities charged him with trying to establish a terrorist training camp in the western state of Oregon, involvement in hostage-taking in Yemen and funding terrorism training in Afghanistan.

The United States plans to resume the extradition case once he is convicted or cleared of the British charges.

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Associated Press, via, USA
Jan. 4, 2005

Religion News Blog posted this on Tuesday January 4, 2005.
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