Abu Hamza al-Masri

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Abu Hamza al-Masri
Abu Hamza al-Masri.jpg
An early picture of Abu Hamza al-Masri, prior to losing an eye and both hands in an explosion
Born Mustafa Kamel Mustafa ( مصطفى كامل مصطفى)
(1958-04-15) 15 April 1958 (age 56)
Alexandria, EgyptEgypt
Residence Detained in the United States of America awaiting trial
Nationality Egypt Egyptian (1958-)
United Kingdom British (1983-)
Bosnia and Herzegovina Bosnian (c.1995/6-2001)
Religion Islam
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 (About this sound pronunciation ;[needs IPA] أبو حمزة المصري, Abū Ḥamzah al-Maṣrī), or simply Abu Hamza, is an Egyptian-born cleric who was the imam of Finsbury Park Mosque in London, England, where he preached Islamic fundamentalism and militant Islamism, or jihadism. He was imprisoned in Britain and is now on trial in the U.S.

On 26 August 2004 he was arrested by British police under Section 41 of the Terrorism Act 2000 and detained on remand. The charges were dropped on 31 August and he was kept in prison while a U.S. extradition case was developed and British authorities drew up further criminal charges of their own. In 2006 a British court found him guilty of six charges under the Offences against the Person Act 1861, four charges under the Public Order Act 1986, and one charge under the Terrorism Act 2000, and sentenced him to seven years' imprisonment. On 5 October 2012 he was extradited from the UK to the United States to face terrorism charges there[1][2] and on 14 April 2014 his trial opened in New York.[3]


Hamza was born in Alexandria, Egypt, as Mustafa Kamel Mustafa in 1958, the son of a middle class army officer. In 1979, he entered Britain on a student visa.[4]

His initial reaction to life in Britain was to describe it as "a paradise, where you could do anything you wanted".[5] He studied civil engineering at Brighton Polytechnic College.[6]

In the early 1990s, Hamza lived in Bosnia under another name, and fought alongside Bosniaks against Serbs and Croats during the Bosnian War.[7][8]

Hamza, who has one eye and no hands, says he lost them fighting Soviet forces in Afghanistan.[9] CNN reported they were "injuries he says he sustained while tackling a landmine in Afghanistan."[10] Among several accounts that take issue with Hamza's story,[11][12] BBC security correspondent Gordon Corera's introduction to Omar Nasiri's memoir Inside the Jihad: My Life with Al Qaeda says Hamza "boosted his credibility" with rumors he sustained the injuries fighting jihad; also that Nasiri knew they resulted from "an accident during experiments in a training camp", and Hamza asked Nasiri "to keep this secret in order to avoid undermining his reputation."[13]

The UK tabloid press have nicknamed him "Hook" in allusion to the fictional pirate Captain Hook.[14][15][16]


On 16 May 1980, Hamza married British citizen Valerie Fleming, a Roman Catholic convert to Islam,[17] and they had a son, Mohammed Mustafa Kamel. In 1984, they divorced and he married a woman with whom he has seven children.[18]

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".[19][20]

Religious life[edit]

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,[21][22] 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).[23]

Hamza publicly expressed support for Islamist goals such as creating a caliphate,[24] 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.[25]

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."[26]

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.[27]

Arrest, charges and imprisonment[edit]

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.[28] 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.[29] 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]",[30] 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]".[30]
  • Guilty of one charge of "possessing a document containing information likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism"[30] 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.[31]

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."[32] 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.[33] 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.[34]

Extradition to the United States[edit]

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.[35][36] 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 website advocating global violent jihad.[37] 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.[38][39] Abu Hamza appealed against this decision to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). 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 he would not be treated inhumanely.[40] 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.[41] 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.[citation needed] 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.[42]

On 24 September 2012, the court said he could be extradited to the U.S. to face terrorism charges.[43] 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",[44] 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.[45] On 5 October 2012, the High Court granted the UK's government's request for Hamza to be extradited to the U.S.[46] 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 2012 to face 11 charges relating to hostage taking, conspiracy to establish a militant training camp and calling for holy war in Afghanistan. He appeared in court on 6 October in New York and was then taken into custody. He appeared in court again on 9 October and pleaded not guilty to 11 charges.[47][48][49] On 14 April 2014 his trial opened with jury selection.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Lawless, Jill (5 October 2012). "Abu Hamza extradited to US after UK ruling". The Age. http://news.theage.com.au/breaking-news-technology/abu-hamza-extradited-to-us-after-uk-ruling-20121006-275sb.html. Retrieved 6 October 2012.
  2. ^ FP Staff. "The First Post – Firstpost World Abu Hamza to appear in U.S. court". The First Post. The First Post. Retrieved 6 October 2012. 
  3. ^ a b McVeigh, Karen (14 April 2014). "Abu Hamza to testify in New York terrorism trial as jury selection begins". The Guardian. 
  4. ^ Brooks, Libby (1 May 2003). "5 tough questions about asylum-part 2". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 18 March 2009. 
  5. ^ "BBC Four – Storyville". BBC. 25 November 2011. Retrieved 10 April 2012. 
  6. ^ Lawson, Tracy (21 January 2003). "As a fundamentalist cleric reviled and revered for his preaches of hate". The Scotsman. Retrieved 18 March 2009. 
  7. ^ Nun, Jan (8 February 2006). "U.K.: Muslim Extremist Preacher Gets Seven Years in Jail". Radio Free Europe. Retrieved 21 March 2009. 
  8. ^ Naughton, Philippe (7 February 2006). "Profile: Abu Hamza". Times Online edition (London). Retrieved 21 March 2009. 
  9. ^ McVeigh, Karenn (14 April 2014). "Abu Hamza to testify in New York terrorism trial as jury selection begins". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 April 2014. 
  10. ^ "Abu Hamza: Controversial Muslim figure". CNN. 27 May 2004. Retrieved 10 April 2012. 
  11. ^ Horgan, John (15 May 2009). Walking Away from Terrorism: Accounts of Disengagement from Radical and Extremist Movements. New York: Routledge. ISBN 978-0-203-87473-8. Retrieved 24 October 2013. 
  12. ^ O'Neill, Sean; McGrory, Daniel (2006). The Suicide Factory: Abu Hamza and the Finsbury Park Mosque. HarperPerennial. pp. 21–29. ISBN 978-0-007-23469-1. 
  13. ^ "Nasiri, Omar" (2006). Inside the Jihad: My Life with Al Qaeda - A Spy's Story. New York: Basic Books. ISBN 978-0-465-02388-2. Retrieved 24 October 2013. 
  14. ^ "Abu Hamza al-Masri". Martinfrost.ws. Retrieved 2013-10-23. 
  15. ^ Holden, Michael. "Hook-handed Hamza: much more than a James Bond villain". Reuters. Retrieved 2013-10-23. 
  16. ^ "Hamza Hook: a panto villain | Mick Hume | spiked". Spiked-online.com. Retrieved 2013-10-23. 
  17. ^ "Hamza's ex-wife life threatened". BBC. 8 February 2006. Retrieved 18 March 2009. 
  18. ^ Casciani, Dominic (7 February 2006). "Profile: Abu Hamza". BBC. Retrieved 10 April 2012. 
  19. ^ "Britons convicted of Yemen bomb plot". BBC. 9 August 1999. 
  20. ^ "Abu Hamza and the Islamic Army". Albab. Retrieved 10 April 2012. 
  21. ^ "Mosque raid findings revealed". BBC News. 7 February 2006. 
  22. ^ Casciani, Dominic; Sakr, Sharif (7 February 2006). "The battle for the mosque". BBC News. 
  23. ^ Casciani, Dominic (27 May 2004). "Profile: Abu Hamza al-Masri". BBC. Retrieved 22 March 2009. 
  24. ^ Oneill, Sean (13 January 2006). "Abu Hamzas video call to arms". The Times (London). 
  25. ^ "The Algerian Question", Algeria: Anger of the Dispossessed, Yale University Press, John Phillips and Martin Evans, 2007, p. 222.
  26. ^ Salafimedia.com "Join the Victorious Party (Part l)".
  27. ^ Thackrah, John Richard (2004). Dictionary of terrorism. Routledge. p. 145. ISBN 978-0-415-29820-9. Retrieved 10 April 2012. 
  28. ^ "Muslim cleric Hamza de-arrested". BBC News (BBC). 31 August 2004. Retrieved 22 March 2009. 
  29. ^ "Cleric faces trial on 16 charges". CNN. 1 August 2006. Retrieved 10 April 2012. 
  30. ^ a b c "Abu Hamza convicted of eleven charges". Crown Prosecution Service. 2 July 2006. 
  31. ^ Vikram Dodd (12 January 2006). "Islamic cleric had terror handbook, court told". The Guardian. Retrieved 10 April 2012. 
  32. ^ Campbell, Duncan (9 February 2006). "'Preacher of hate' jailed in Britain". The Age (Australia). Retrieved 10 April 2012. 
  33. ^ "Abu Hamza must pay £1m for trial". BBC. 18 January 2007. Retrieved 22 March 2009. 
  34. ^ Taxpayers' Alliance estimates on Abu Hamza's cost to the British taxpayer[dead link]
  35. ^ Whitehead, Tom. "Abu Hamza could be out of Britain in days after losing extradition appeal". The Telegraph. 
  36. ^ "Abu Hamza arrested in London on terrorism charges files in the United States.". United States Department of Justice. 27 May 2004. Retrieved 10 April 2012. 
  37. ^ "From community activist to alleged terror conspirator". CNN. 29 August 2002. 
  38. ^ "Abu Hamza could face extradition". BBC. 15 November 2007. Retrieved 10 April 2012. 
  39. ^ Hughes, Simon (20 June 2008). "Abu Hamza will be sent packing to America straight after serving his jail sentence in Britain". The Sun. Retrieved 10 April 2012. 
  40. ^ Dodd, Vikram (8 July 2010). "Abu Hamza extradition to US blocked by European court". The Guardian (London). 
  41. ^ "Abu Hamza extradition to US blocked on human rights grounds". The Daily Telegraph (London). 8 July 2010. 
  42. ^ "Yemen seeks Abu Hamza's extradition.(UPI Top Stories)". UPI News. 29 May 2004. 
  43. ^ Hue, Sylvia. "UK TO EXTRADITE RADICAL MUSLIM CLERIC TO US". Associated Press. Retrieved 25 September 2012. 
  44. ^ Hall, John (10 April 2012). "Court rejects claims that extraditing Abu Hamza to the US would breach his human rights". The Independent. Retrieved 23 February 2013. 
  45. ^ "Abu Hamza: High Court judge halts extradition to the US". BBC. 26 September 2012. Retrieved 26 September 2012. 
  46. ^ "Abu Hamza to be extradited to US". BBC. Retrieved 5 October 2012. 
  47. ^ Radical Islamist Abu Hamza al-Masri pleads not guilty
  48. ^ "Abu Hamza due in US court following extradition". BBC. Retrieved 6 October 2012. 
  49. ^ Alastair Leithead (1 January 1970). "Abu Hamza extradition: US court hears terror suspects". BBC. 

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