Abu Hamza is charged over 'urging followers to kill Jews'

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The Independent Online

Abu Hamza, the radical Muslim preacher, was charged yesterday with 16 offences, including urging his followers to murder Jews.

Abu Hamza, the radical Muslim preacher, was charged yesterday with 16 offences, including urging his followers to murder Jews.

The former imam of Finsbury Park Mosque in north London was also charged with inciting racial hatred and possessing a document that could be useful to terrorists.

The 47-year-old appeared at the magistrates' court at Belmarsh high security prison in south-east London. He was being held there while the US authorities were attempting to extradite him to stand trial on other charges.

In 10 of the charges he is accused of "soliciting others to murder non-believers at public meetings" under section four of the Offences Against the Person Act (1861). In each, the proposed victims were people who did not "believe in the Islamic faith". Four of the charges specified that Abu Hamza had encouraged others to murder Jews.

The evidence in each charge is contained in a tape recording of the Islamic cleric. Each of the 10 charges carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.

He also faces four charges under the Public Order Act 1986 of "using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour with the intention of stirring up racial hatred". This offence has a maximum penalty of seven years in jail.

A further charge said Abu Hamza was in possession of eight video and audio recordings, which he intended to distribute to stir up racial hatred.

He faces one charge under section 58 of the Terrorism Act which relates to the alleged possession of a book which contained information "of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism".

All the charges against Abu Hamza were for offences alleged to have taken place on or before 27 May 2004.

Abu Hamza was born in Egypt and came to England as a student. He obtained UK citizenship after marrying a British woman.

The US legal action to extradite Abu Hamza has been suspended while the criminal case is heard in Britain. It will resume once the criminal case is concluded.

The cleric, who was dressed in a khaki over-shirt and had had his beard and hair neatly trimmed, sat in court to hear the 16 charges. He spoke only to confirm his name and date of birth and showed little emotion as the charges were read.

He was guarded by five prison officers and listened intently to extensive legal argument about his case involving Deborah Walsh, who represents the Crown Prosecution Service, and his own barrister, Edward Fitzgerald QC.

Abu Hamza nodded as district Judge Timothy Workman told him he was being remanded in custody until 26 October when he will appear for a preliminary hearing at the Old Bailey. There was no application for bail.