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Last Updated: Thursday, 19 January 2006, 13:59 GMT
Hamza denies encouraging murder
Abu Hamza
Mr Abu Hamza had denied the charges against him
Muslim cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri has told the Old Bailey that he did not encourage followers to murder in his sermons between 1997 and 2000.

He also denied inciting people to hate members of the Jewish community in the UK or abroad, and denounced racism.

Earlier his defence lawyer urged jurors to judge him on evidence, rather than what has been written about him.

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

Racism is one of the greatest sins - I actually condemned it
Abu Hamza al-Masri

When asked if he intended to incite hatred towards Jewish people, he referred the judge and the jury to the Koran, which said racism was unlawful.

"If you are a scholar you will never distinguish between anyone of any colour. Racism is one of the greatest sins. I actually condemned it," he said.

"We have been told to hate it as wrong, even if it comes from our own fathers, we have to denounce it."

Earlier, opening the defence case, Edward Fitzgerald, QC, said the defendant was "probably the most frequently abused and ridiculed figure in this country".

Press 'exaggeration'

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

The defence barrister told the Old Bailey jury some members of the press "may have convicted him before the trial began".

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

The jury heard that an alleged "terror manual" was among 181 items confiscated from the cleric's home in Shepherd's Bush, west London.

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

Police search

But the defendant said it was a gift he had not read and had kept as a historical document.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

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 possessing 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 case continues.




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