Abu Hamza al-Masri
|Abu Hamza al-Masri|
An early picture of Abu Hamza al-Masri, prior to losing an eye and both of his arms in an explosion
|Born||Mustafa Kamel Mustafa ( مصطفى كامل مصطفى)
15 April 1958
|Residence||Detained in the United States of America awaiting trial|
- In this Arabic name, the name "al-Masri" is a laqab, not a family name, and that the person should be referred to by the given names "Abu Hamza" or "Hamza" (but never "Abu").
Mustafa Kamel Mustafa (Arabic: مصطفى كامل مصطفى; born 15 April 1958), also known as Abu Hamza al-Masri ( pronunciation (help·info);[needs IPA] أبو حمزة المصري, Abū Ḥamzah al-Maṣrī), or simply Abu Hamza, is an Egyptian-born convict and former imam, who has preached Islamic fundamentalism and militant Islamism, or jihadism. He was imprisoned in the United Kingdom in 2004 and was extradited to the United States on 5 October 2012 where he will face charges of supporting al-Qaeda, aiding a kidnapping in Yemen and plotting to open a training camp for militants in the United States.
In the early 1990s, Hamza lived in Bosnia, with a forged identity document, where he fought alongside Bosniaks against Serbs and Croats during the Bosnian War. After the war he married a Bosnian Muslim widow with three children, and fathered a further three. In recognition of services rendered during the war the Bosnian State awarded Abu Hamza citizenship, but this was rescinded after the September 11 attacks.
He lost both hands and an eye, allegedly whilst on a demining project near Jalalabad, during the war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. He now uses a distinctive hook prosthesis replacing his right hand—which on 21 January 2003 would spark the front page headline "Sling Your Hook" from The Sun newspaper, urging him to leave Britain. Since that time, the UK tabloid press have popularised the nickname "Hook" for Hamza (an allusion to the fictional pirate Captain Hook). CNN reported that Hamza's missing hand and eye were "injuries he says he sustained while tackling a landmine in Afghanistan". However, former agent "Omar Nasiri", who infiltrated several Islamist cells from 1994-2000, has claimed that Abu Hamza al-Masri lost his hands in a laboratory explosives accident rather than a battlefield demining operation as Hamza and other media sources have previously stated.
On 16 May 1980, Hamza married Valerie Traverso, a Roman Catholic convert to Islam, and had a son, Mohammed Mustafa Kamel, whom Abu Hamza later separated from his mother when the boy was four years old. His son did not see his mother again for another twelve years. He acquired British citizenship following three years of marriage and, according to The Sun newspaper, acquired a job as a bouncer for a peep show in Soho. In 1984, he divorced his wife and married Nadjet, with whom he has seven children.
In 1999 Hamza's eldest son, Mohammed Mustafa Kamel (at the time 17 years old), and his stepson, Mohsin Ghalain, were arrested in Yemen. They were convicted of being part of a bomb plot involving eight Britons and two Algerians, and were imprisoned for three years and seven years respectively. The prosecution alleged that Abu Hamza had sent them to Yemen to carry out terrorist attacks. The defence argued that the men had been tortured and called the trial a "travesty of justice".
Hamza was formerly the imam of Finsbury Park Mosque, and a leader of "Supporters of Sharia", an extremist group that believed in a strict interpretation of Islamic law. In 2003, he addressed a rally in central London called by the Islamic al-Muhajiroun, where members spoke of their support for Islamist goals such as the creation of a new Islamic caliphate and destroying the Western-backed Middle Eastern regimes.
On 4 February 2003 (after being suspended since April 2002), Hamza was dismissed from his position at the Finsbury Park mosque by the Charity Commission, the government department that regulates charities in England and Wales. After his exclusion from the mosque, he preached outside the gates until May 2004, when he was arrested at the start of US extradition proceedings against him (see below).
Hamza publicly expressed support for Islamist goals such as creating a caliphate, and for Osama bin Laden. He wrote a paper entitled El Ansar (The Victor) in which he expressed support for the actions of the Armed Islamic Group (GIA) in Algeria, but he later rejected them when they started killing civilians.
In one sermon relating to the necessity of Jihad, he said: "Allah likes those who believe in Him who kill those who do not believe in Him. Allah likes that. So if you Muslims don’t like that because you hate the blood, there is something wrong with you."
It is alleged that he associated with Abdullah el-Faisal, a Jamaican Muslim convert cleric who preached in the UK until he was imprisoned for urging his followers to murder Jews, Hindus, Christians and Americans, subsequently being deported to Jamaica in 2007.
Arrest, charges and imprisonment
On 26 August 2004, Hamza was arrested by British police under section 41 of the Terrorism Act 2000 which covers the instigation of acts of terrorism. Charges against him were dropped on 31 August 2004, but he was kept in jail whilst a U.S. extradition case was developed and British authorities drew up further criminal charges of their own. Almost two months later, on 19 October 2004, Hamza was charged with 15 offences under the provisions of various British statutes, including encouraging the murder of non-Muslims, and intent to stir up racial hatred. The trial commenced on 5 July 2005, but was adjourned, and not resumed until 9 January 2006. On 7 February 2006, he was found guilty on eleven charges and not guilty on four:
- Guilty of six charges of soliciting murder under the Offences against the Person Act 1861; not guilty on three further such charges.
- Guilty of three charges related to "using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour with intent to stir up racial hatred, [contrary to section 18 (1) of the Public Order Act 1986]", not guilty on one further such charge.
- Guilty of one charge of "possession of threatening, abusive or insulting recordings of sound, with intent to stir up racial hatred [contrary to section 23 of the Public Order Act 1986]".
- Guilty of one charge of "possessing a document containing information likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism" under the Terrorism Act 2000, s58. This charge under the Terrorism Act of 2000 related to his possession of an Encyclopedia of Afghan Jihad, an Al Qaeda Handbook and other propaganda materials produced by Abu Hamza.
In sentencing, Mr Justice Hughes said Hamza had "helped to create an atmosphere in which to kill has become regarded by some as not only a legitimate course but a moral and religious duty in pursuit of perceived justice." Abu Hamza was sentenced to seven years' imprisonment.
On 18 January 2007, Lord Justice Hughes made an order for the recovery of the full costs of the court-appointed defence of the race-hate charges, estimated in excess of 1 million pounds. This judgement was based on his view that "the story I have been told today (by Abu Hamza) is simply not true" that he [Abu Hamza] had no share in a £220,000 house in Greenford, west London. Hamza had claimed it belonged to his sister. The court also found that Abu Hamza was contributing £9000 a year for private education for his children. The Daily Mail reported in 2009 that the TaxPayers' Alliance estimated that the father-of-eight Abu Hamza had so far cost Britain £2.75 million in welfare payments, council housing and legal costs.
Imprisonment of sons
On 28 May 2009, three of Hamza's sons were sentenced to imprisonment by Southwark Crown Court for a two-year fraud involving stolen cars. Hamza Kamel, then aged 22, and Mohamed Mostafa, then aged 27, both from Acton, London, ran the scam operation with Abu Hamza's stepson Mohssin Ghailam, then aged 28. Four other men were jailed on related charges. In July 2010, it was reported that another son, Yasser Kamel, then aged 20, was sentenced to twelve months in youth detention after pleading guilty to one count of violent disorder at anti-Israel protests in January 2009. In January 2012, Imran Mostafa (another of Abu Hamza's sons) was convicted for his part in an armed robbery on a jewellers in Kings Lynn, Norfolk, and for illegally possessing a firearm with intent to commit an offence.
Extradition to the United States
On 27 May 2004, Hamza was detained on remand by British authorities and appeared before magistrates at the start of a process to try to extradite him to the United States. Yemen also requested his extradition. The United States wanted Hamza to stand trial for 11 counts relating to the taking of 16 hostages in Yemen in 1998, advocating violent jihad in Afghanistan in 2001, supporting James Ujaama in an attempt to establish a terrorist training camp in late 1999 and early 2000 near Bly, Oregon and of providing aid to al-Qaeda. Ujaama is a U.S. citizen who had met Abu Hamza in England in 1999 and was indicted in the U.S. for providing aid to al-Qaeda, attempting to establish a terrorist training camp, and for running a Web site advocating global violent jihad. Abu Hamza was in Britain throughout the relevant period.
Hamza could not face the death penalty if extradited to the United States because the UK is a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). On 15 November 2007, British courts gave permission for Hamza's extradition to the U.S. Abu Hamza appealed against this decision to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), Europe's highest court. In the meantime, Hamza was kept in prison after the completion of his sentence.
On 8 July 2010, the ECtHR temporarily blocked Hamza's extradition to the United States to face terrorism charges until the court was satisfied that Abu Hamza would not be treated inhumanely. The court based its judgement on ECHR which applies to British law. It is an absolute prohibition for a signatory to the ECHR to remove anyone to a place where they would be subject to inhumane or degrading treatment. In past cases, the ECtHR has prevented the UK from deporting suspected foreign terrorists to places where they might be tortured. In Hamza's case, this has been extended to refusing extradition to a country where he might be jailed for life and where the prison regime is judged to be too harsh. The ruling would apply to any extradition to the U.S. unless American authorities can guarantee in advance that the suspect will not be incarcerated in a so-called supermax prison. The court said there should be further legal argument on whether life without parole would be a breach of human rights. The court asked for fresh submissions on whether Hamza, and other prisoners awaiting extradition, would face inhumane treatment in the U.S. if they were sent there to stand trial.
On 24 September 2012, the court said he could be extradited to the U.S. to face terrorism charges. It based its decision on the fact that "not all inmates convicted of international terrorism were housed at ADX and, even if they were, sufficient procedural safeguards were in place, such as holding a hearing before deciding on such a transfer" and that "if the transfer process had been unsatisfactory, there was the possibility of bringing a claim to both the Federal Bureau of Prisons' administrative remedy programme and the US federal courts", referring to the 28 C.F.R. 542 Administrative Remedy Program. On 26 September 2012, a High Court judge halted the extradition of Hamza to the U.S. on terror charges after the cleric launched a last-ditch appeal. On 5 October 2012, the High Court granted the UK's government's request for Hamza to be extradited to the U.S. The removal process took place that same evening, when Hamza was taken from Long Lartin jail to RAF Mildenhall in Suffolk, where he was placed into the custody of U.S. Marshals. Abu Hamza arrived in the U.S. on the morning of 6 October where he will face 11 charges relating to hostage taking, conspiracy to establish a militant training camp and calling for holy war in Afghanistan. Hamza appeared in court on 6 October in New York where he was then taken into custody. He appeared in court again on 9 October and pleaded not guilty to 11 charges. Hamza is currently awaiting the delivery of new prosthetic limbs that are deemed to be suitable for a prison environment.
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- Archived Hamza organisation site from archive.org (Takes a few moments to be retrieved from archive.)
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