Abu Hamza terror trial: Hamza the human or Hamza the terrible?

The defence and prosecution have set up their cases. Now the jury awaits the testimonies of the cleric’s colleagues and followers

New York

Prosecutors will this week seek to build on their sweeping terror case against a former radical cleric from north London by calling a succession of former associates and followers as witnesses and playing recordings of his past sermons and statements in which he vilifies the West and praises al-Qa’ida.

The stakes are high for the US government as the trial of Abu Hamza,  former imam of the Finsbury Park mosque, north London, enters a second week. He was brought to the US in 2012 to stand trial on charges of fostering terror around the world after a years-long extradition battle. To lose would be a serious embarrassment.

Abu Hamza, 56, who has already served six years in Britain for inciting hatred and soliciting murder, faces 11 charges. He is accused of trying to set up a jihad training camp in Oregon, providing assistance to hostage-takers in an attack on western tourists in Yemen in 1998 that left four dead, and sending support and fighters to al-Qa’ida in Afghanistan. He denies all the charges.

At opening statements last week, the jury heard starkly different characterisations of Abu Hamza. Assistant US Attorney Edward Kim said the imam used his London mosque as “the base of operations for the global export of violence and terror”. He added: “You will learn Abu Hamza did not just talk the talk, he walked the walk. He was not just a preacher of religion, he was a trainer of terrorists.”

A guard outside the Manhattan court hearing the trial of Abu Hamza A guard outside the Manhattan court hearing the trial of Abu Hamza The defence countered that while his rhetoric had often been “harsh” the defendant had, in fact, tried to be a moderating influence, working with MI5 to head off violence in Britain’s Muslim community. He faces a possible life sentence if convicted, but as part of the extradition deal, the US agreed that if convicted he would not be sent to Colorado’s notoriously harsh “supermax” prison.

Before making his statement, defence lawyer Joshua Dratel stood behind Abu Hamza, seated at the defence table, and clasped his shoulders in a gesture meant to relay to jurors that despite Hamza’s fiery reputation and appearance – he lost both hands and an eye in Afghanistan – he remains a human being. He confirmed that Abu Hamza will later take the stand.

But, for the next few days the prosecution will present its case, pausing only for defence cross-examination of its witnesses. They will include an American, Mary Quin, a survivor of the Yemen attack, who went to London to interview the imam for her book. The court will hear a recording in which he admits giving the hostage-takers a satellite phone and saying that the operation had been justified.

Also due to testify is Saajid Badat, who served time in the UK for his role in the “shoe-bomb” conspiracy. He was released after agreeing to serve as a “super-grass”. He refused to travel to New York for fear of being arrested, and the judge, Katherine Forrest, ruled last week that he will be able to testify via video-link from London.

Judge Forrest also denied a defence motion barring the prosecution from playing exerts from statements made by Abu Hamza in the mosque and in interviews. He once described the 9/11 attacks as “a towering day in history” and described Osama bin Laden as “a good guy and a hero”. It won’t be lost on the jury that the 18th floor of the court building where the trial is being heard offers direct views onto the old World Trade Center site.

Last Friday, prosecution witness David Smith, an American who converted to Islam, told the jury of a London meeting in 1999 with the imam and his associates, including Feroz Abbasi, who was later captured by US forces in Afghanistan. Mr Smith  said that at the mosque “going to the mountains” was the code used by the iman to mean going to fight for al-Qa’ida in Afghanistan.

The trial is due to last a month.

News
Andy Murray with his girlfriend of nine years, Kim Sears who he has got engaged to
people

Tennis star is set to marry his long-term girlfriend, Kim Sears

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film Ridley Scott reveals truth behind casting decisions of Exodus
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Sport
footballArsenal 2 Borussia Dortmund 0: And they can still top the group
Arts and Entertainment
An unseen image of Kurt Cobain at home featured in the film 'Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck'
filmThe singers widow and former bandmates have approved project
News
Andy Murray with his girlfriend of nine years, Kim Sears who he has got engaged to
peopleWimbledon champion announces engagement to girlfriend Kim Sears
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
tv
Arts and Entertainment
George Mpanga has been shortlisted for the Critics’ Choice prize
music
News
Albert Camus (left) and Jean-Paul Sartre fell out in 1952 and did not speak again before Camus’s death
people
Arts and Entertainment
Roisin, James and Sanjay in the boardroom
tvReview: This week's failing project manager had to go
News
Ed Miliband visiting the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem. The Labour leader has spoken more openly of his heritage recently
newsAttacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But are the barbs more sinister?
Arts and Entertainment
'Felfie' (2014) by Alison Jackson
photographyNew exhibition shows how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
News
i100
Life and Style
Fright night: the board game dates back to at least 1890
life
Environment
The vaquita is being killed by fishermen trying to catch the totoaba fish, which is prized in China
environmentJust 97 of the 'world's cutest' sea mammals remain
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Marketing Specialist

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading Renewable Energy compa...

Ashdown Group: Data Warehouse & Business Intelligence Co-ordinator

£35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Required skills include SQL querying, SSRS, u...

Ashdown Group: C#.Net Developer - C#, ASP.Net, PHP, HTML, JavaScript, CSS

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: C#.Net Developer - C#, ASP.Net, HTML...

Argyll Scott International: Senior Business Analyst- Insurance

Negotiable: Argyll Scott International: Senior Business Analyst - Insurance ...

Day In a Page

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

Staying connected: The King's School

The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

When two worlds collide

Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?