Hamza 'preached sermons of murder and hatred'

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The Independent Online

The Muslim cleric Abu Hamza preached "murder and hatred" to his followers, telling them it was their "religious duty to kill" non-Muslims, a court heard today.

Hamza singled out Jews, proclaiming in one of his sermons that "Hitler was sent into the world" because of their "treachery, blasphemy and filth", the Old Bailey was told.

Hamza, 47, from west London, faces nine charges under the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 alleging he solicited others at public meetings to murder Jews and other non-Muslims.

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".

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

The final charge under section 58 of the Terrorism Act accuses him of possession of a document, the Encyclopaedia of the Afghani Jihad, which contained information "of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism".

He denies the offences, allegedly committed before May 2004.

Hamza, who has no hands and only one eye, sat flanked by three dock officers as he heard trial judge Mr Justice Hughes tell the seven-man, five-woman jury to ignore what they had read or heard about him in the media.

The panel then heard prosecutor David Perry describe how Hamza had been found in possession of an Encyclopaedia of Afghani Jihad, which ran to 10 volumes.

"What the prosecution say about that encyclopaedia is that it was a manual for terrorism," he said.

The encyclopaedia "explained how to make explosives, it explained assassination methods and it explained how a terrorist unit, or a military unit, can most effectively operate", Mr Perry said.

The court heard that Hamza was born in Egypt in 1958 but that he had lived in this country for a number of years and was now a British citizen.

"He is also a Muslim and he is a well-known figure in the Muslim community," Mr Perry said.

"He is known as a preacher or speaker and as a preacher or speaker he will frequently give talks at meetings attended by Muslims and on occasions he would deliver sermons at Finsbury Park Mosque in north London, at least until that mosque was closed. It is only relevant to know it was closed in 2003."

He said that some of Hamza's talks and sermons had been recorded on video cassette. It was some of those cassettes which formed the basis of the prosecution's case, he said.

"As a person delivering sermons in a holy place and as a person holding a position of responsibility in the Muslim community, someone who was a spiritual leader, you might expect that talks delivered by such a person contained expressions of hope and of charity and compassion," Mr Perry said.

He told the jury that the speeches with which the court would be concerned contained "very little of these matters".

"The prosecution's case in a sentence is that the defendant, Sheik Abu Hamza, was preaching murder and hatred in these talks," he said.

"You will hear the tapes and we will hear that the defendant, Sheik Abu Hamza, encouraged his listeners, whether they were an audience at a private meeting or a congregation at the mosque, to believe that it was part of a religious duty to fight in the cause of Allah, God, and as part of the religious duty to fight in the cause of Allah, it was part of the religious duty to kill."

He continued: "The people they were being encouraged to kill, put shortly, were non-believers - those who did not believe in, or who were not a follower or even a true follower of Islam."

Hamza had occupied a position of responsibility as a spiritual leader, said Mr Perry.

"You would think he would be preaching tolerance, mutual co-existence and responsibility regardless of religion or creed.

"In fact he preached the opposite - intolerance, bigotry and hatred, in particular against Jews as a racial group and as a religious body," said Mr Perry.

"In the course of one lecture he accused the Jews of being blasphemous, traitors and dirty. This, because of the treachery, because of their blasphemy and filth, was why Hitler was sent into the world."

Hamza also claimed that Jews controlled the West.

"By that we take it to mean Western democracies such as this country," he told the jury.

Hamza said Jews must be removed from the earth.

"This aspect of his teaching also represents the offences of inciting racial hatred," Mr Perry told the jury.

Hamza had expressed hatred and contempt in particular for the Jews.

"But what he said did not stop with hate-mongering but he was exalting his listeners to kill."