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Last Updated: Tuesday, 17 January 2006, 18:36 GMT
Police 'saw Hamza tapes in 1990s'
Abu Hamza (Image by court artist Elizabeth Cook/PA)
A talk given by Mr Abu Hamza in 1998 was played to the court
Cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri had many discussions with police and MI5 long before his arrest last year, the Old Bailey has heard.

Mr Abu Hamza said in a statement the three videotapes the police were using as evidence in his trial had been in their possession since the late 1990s.

He also met French police in 1997 about Algerian GIA militants, he said.

The 47-year-old, from west London, denies 15 charges, including soliciting murder and inciting racial hatred.

'Cooperated fully'

The cleric released a statement prepared by his solicitor when he was arrested in 2005 which read: "I have never wanted to or encouraged anyone to hurt British people.

"The police/MI5 had numerous discussions with me about GIA and I had discussions with the French police in the presence of Scotland Yard officers in I believe 1997," the statement said.

Mr Abu Hamza said he had denounced the GIA, which had claimed responsibility for many attacks in strife-torn Algeria.

"I have co-operated fully with the police despite advice from them that I did not have to answer any questions," he said.

There is a hate campaign which has taken place against me
Abu Hamza al-Masri

Mr Abu Hamza said he was a religious preacher and that it was unfortunate his comments had been taken out of context.

He said he had not seen some of the videos police had recovered: "It is not possible to provide comments as only selected passages have been played and I believe things have been taken out of context.

"I am not in charge of the filming and distribution. Anyone can copy out - sell this material, and keep the money to cover their expenses."

He also said a ten-volume "terror encyclopaedia" seized in a police raid had been a gift, and that he had not read it.

"There is a hate campaign which has taken place against me," Mr Abu Hamza said.

"I was expressing my right to freedom of expression. I answered the questions in the position of a preacher that is why I am referred to as Sheikh Abu Hamza."

The cleric said he had condemned the March 2004 bombings in Madrid, which left 191 dead and have been blamed on Islamic extremists.

Mr Abu Hamza said in a speech there were "six enemies of Islam", including Christians and Jews, the Old Bailey heard earlier.

Jews "kill our men as if they are playing video games", he said in a talk taped in 1998 and played to the court.

'Sons of monkeys'

He said in another sermon that people killed in the cause of Allah were "doing the right thing".

In the first speech, Mr Abu Hamza said Islam's first enemy was "tyrants and apostates of our leaders, Jews number two, Christians number three, evil scholars of Muslims number four, hypocrites number five, ignorance of our umma [the Muslim community] number six".

Allah had described Jews as sons of monkeys, but "we deal with them as masters", he said.

In the other sermon, Mr Abu Hamza said that if suicide bombing was "the only way to hurt the enemies of Islam... then it is allowed".

He was asked by a member of the audience about killing defenceless women or children. He said Islam forbade taking aim against children or the elderly.

But he also said: "If a child, for example, he's been trained to kill... and you can't stop his evil except with killing him, you do that, that is the thing."

'Threatening behaviour'

Mr Abu Hamza faces nine charges under the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 alleging that 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 he 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 all charges. The trial continues.



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