Hamza 'used mosque for political ends', watchdog rules

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The radical Muslim cleric Abu Hamza used a London mosque as a base to spread extremist views and protect his followers, according to a report published yesterday.

Abu Hamza was also accused of driving away moderate Muslims from the mosque in Finsbury Park, north London, which he exploited for "personal and political rather than charitable purposes".

The Charity Commission report painted a deeply critical picture of Abu Hamza, who has repeatedly sparked outrage with his extremist statements and outspoken support for Osama bin Laden.

The commission concluded that the trustees of the North London Central Mosque Trust had lost control of the site to Abu Hamza and his followers. "He caused or permitted the control of the mosque to be taken over by his supporters to the exclusion of the trustees," the report said. "He caused or permitted individuals who were believed to be his supporters to live at the mosque."

It added: "He involved himself in organising and participating in a highly inflammatory and political conference at the mosque on September 11, 2002 ... without the authority of the trustees."

Abu Aziz, a spokesman for Abu Hamza, dismissed the findings as "contradictory" and warned against such intervention. "Are the Charity Commission saying they have the right to intervene in what can be said at the mosque?" he said. "If they are trying to tell us what can and cannot be discussed at Friday sermons, then we are treading on very dangerous territory."

The report was published six months after a police raid on the mosque, which has been closed on "health and safety" grounds. Abu Hamza, 45, who is known as much for his hook hand as his protestations, is appealing against a move by David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, to expel him from Britain.

Although he is banned from preaching inside the mosque, he has not been deterred from conducting services on the street outside. The Charity Commission, which does not have the power to stop outdoor preaching, said it would monitor Abu Hamza's activities.