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Last Updated: Friday, 20 January 2006, 14:13 GMT
Hamza denies advocating terrorism
Abu Hamza
Mr Abu Hamza has denied the charges against him
Muslim cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri has denied at the Old Bailey that he would advocate a terrorist attack on Big Ben or any civilian target.

He said he had not known Big Ben and the Eiffel Tower were referred to as potential targets in an encyclopaedia seized at his home by police last year.

Prosecutors said the 10-volume encyclopaedia was a terrorism "manual".

Mr Abu Hamza, 47, from west London, denies 15 charges including soliciting murder and inciting racial hatred.

The prosecution said the Encyclopaedia of Afghani Jihad, which was among 181 items seized in a pre-dawn raid, contained a dedication to Osama Bin Laden and suggested possible terrorist targets.

But the cleric told the court: "The first time I was aware of it was in this court."

He said he been given the encyclopaedia and only kept it because he thought maps and other information could be useful for relief work.

"It is not used... bearing in mind it was seized [by police] in 1999, kept for nine months, returned back, then again taken in 2004," he said.

"I suggest it has only been opened by the security services - it has not been used or touched."

'Against attacks'

Defence counsel Edward Fitzgerald QC asked his client whether he would attack Big Ben, or advocate such an attack or one on any civilian target.

"Never," said the defendant.

He said that any attack would be against the concept of jihad - struggle - in the Islamic faith.

Towards the end of the morning, Mr Abu Hamza was asked specifically about his views on suicide bombers.

Most of the reward in Islam is when people sacrifice their time, sacrifice their money or sacrifice their blood
Abu Hamza al-Masri

He said it was not the suicide element that concerned him, but whether the bombing itself could be justified within the boundaries of Islam and what it said about defending Muslims

"If it is the only way to stop the enemies of Islam, or to resist, then it would be a tactic of war.

"Fight in the cause of God those who fight you - but do not transgress [the laws of Islam]."

Turning to the conflict in the Middle East, Mr Abu Hamza referred to Israeli army tactics of using "tanks and bulldozers", and said that in this context, it was legitimate for Muslims to become suicide bombers.

Military action

Earlier, Mr Fitzgerald had asked the preacher whether he had urged Muslims to fight in Kosovo, as alleged by the prosecution.

Mr Abu Hamza said it was a "theoretical argument", because he wanted to use his sermons to persuade Muslims to help their co-religionists.

But he said military action was a solution if Muslims believed it was the only way to prevent further bloodshed.

"Most of the reward in Islam is when people sacrifice their time, sacrifice their money or sacrifice their blood."

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 was adjourned until Monday.


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Details of what Abu Hamza told the court



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