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Last Updated: Thursday, 19 January 2006, 13:10 GMT
'Try Hamza on evidence' jury told
Abu Hamza
Mr Abu Hamza is accused of having a terrorist 'manual'
The defence lawyer for cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri has urged the jury to judge him on evidence in the trial, rather than what has been written about him.

Edward Fitzgerald, QC, told the Old Bailey jury some members of the press "may have convicted him before the trial began", without any evidence.

And he said he would call the cleric to the witness box to give evidence.

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

Opening the defence case, Mr Fitzgerald said the defendant was "probably the most frequently abused and ridiculed figure in this country".

He said the cleric had been called Captain Hook, Hook, and Hooky in some sections of the press with phrases like "Hook off Hookie".

'Terror manual'

Mr Fitzgerald urged jurors to beware of "exaggeration and misrepresentation by the media" in its previous depiction of Mr Abu Hamza.

Earlier, the jury heard that an alleged "terror manual" was among 181 items confiscated from the cleric's home.

The Encyclopaedia of Afghani Jihad suggests a list of potential targets, the prosecution said.

But the defendant said it was a gift he had not read and had kept as a historical document.

The police were looking for diaries, address books, passports and maps.

It is true that he does urge his audience to do all they can to support the intifada
Edward Fitzgerald, QC,

Detective Sgt Keith Asman led the search on the cleric's premises in Shepherds Bush, west London last May.

He said the officers had also been searching for immigration papers, literature and books relating to politics, religion, devices, poisonous chemicals, notepads and personal correspondence.

The officer's evidence came at the end of the prosecution's case.

'Not typical'

Mr Abu Hamza's defence barrister said it was not "a typical case" of incitement to murder, such as where a husband had hired a hitman to kill his wife.

Mr Fitzgerald said the question was whether the defendant had intent when he made the comments.

He said: "The Crown has to prove that the words were clear incitement to murder, not just from general statements about killing."

The court heard that the charges stemmed from "a series of sermons given a long time ago".

Mr Fitzgerald, who stressed the importance of historical context, said the speeches were delivered between 1997 and 2000 - before the World Trade Centre attacks.

'Historical context'

He said the words "mujahideen" and "jihad" were mainly associated with fighters who had been funded by the West against the Russians in Afghanistan during that period.

He pointed out that other charges stemmed from comments outside Finsbury Park mosque in October 2000, when the defendant referred to the Palestinian intifada.

The defence barrister said: "You will hear that during the uprising thousands of Palestinians were killed by Israelis.

"It is true that he does urge his audience to do all they can to support the intifada.

"He does say they should do that physically. But does that amount to incitement to murder?

Charges

"We say much hangs on the historical context."

The cleric faces nine charges under the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 which allege that he solicited others at public meetings to murder Jews and other non-Muslims.

He faces four other 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 claims the defendant 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 the Encyclopaedia of the Afghani Jihad, which, it is claimed, contained information "of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism".

The trial continues.




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