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Last Updated: Tuesday, 7 February 2006, 14:07 GMT
Key to proving Hamza's hate
By Jeremy Britton
BBC News

The conviction of radical cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri for preaching race hate brings to an end a four-week trial that even the judge admitted was highly unusual.

Abu Hamza
Videotapes of Abu Hamza preaching were shown to the jury

Before the trial even started Mr Justice Hughes gave a warning to the press not to "ridicule" Abu Hamza - who as a radical Muslim with no hands and only one eye had for years been an obvious target for the press.

In court the jury had to base their verdicts on a series of nine speeches caught on video and audio tape - speeches that the prosecution claimed showed Abu Hamza, the former imam of Finsbury Park mosque, encouraging people to murder and stirring up racial hatred.

Most of the tapes were seized when Abu Hamza's house in Shepherd's Bush, west London, was raided by anti-terrorist police.

They discovered nearly 3,000 audio cassettes and nearly 600 videos showing the cleric addressing audiences around the country and answering their questions.

Boxes of blank tapes showed Abu Hamza had organised a distribution system through an organisation called Supporters of Sharia, whose clenched-fist symbol featured on the covers of many of the video boxes.

'Recruiting sergeant'

Also found at the house was an Encyclopaedia of Afghani Jihad, which contained detailed advice on making bombs and recommended potential terrorists should choose targets like Big Ben, the Eiffel Tower and the Statue of Liberty to publicise their cause.

Guilty of 6 charges of soliciting to murder
Guilty of 3 charges related to "stirring up racial hatred"
Guilty of 1 charge of owning recordings related to "stirring up racial hatred"
Guilty of 1 charge of possessing "terrorist encyclopaedia"
Not guilty of 3 charges of soliciting to murder
Not guilty of 1 charge related to "stirring up racial hatred"

David Perry, prosecuting, told the court that although Abu Hamza presented himself as a moral and civic leader he was in fact a "recruiting sergeant" for terrorism who, in his speeches, emboldened or persuaded people to commit murder.

"We say on his own words that their meaning is entirely clear," said Mr Perry.

Abu Hamza, in his only comment to the police after arrest, claimed he was the victim of a "witch-hunt" by the media and that his speeches were being taken out of context.

Those speeches, dated from between 1997 and 2000, were played out on video screen in the courtroom and presented the preacher in a variety of locations - Whitechapel, Luton, Blackburn as well as Finsbury Park mosque.

At times Abu Hamza was filmed in a domestic setting, sitting quietly on a carpet in front of floral wallpaper with the sound of traffic in the background; at others he was seen raging at an unseen audience at the top of his voice.

Attack on non-Muslims

In total the jury was given some 600 pages of Abu Hamza's speeches to consider, and provided with a glossary of Arabic terms in order to understand the Islamic religious terms so often used in his sermons.

But the language was often easily understood. In a speech given in 1997 or 1998 Abu Hamza attacks non-Muslims - people he calls the "Kafir".

Abu Hamza's glossary of hate
Kuffar/kafir - Any non-Muslim. Seen as legitimate targets
Caliphate (khilafa) - the dream of a global Islamic caliphate, enforcing strict Sharia law on all
Halal - Something permitted by Islam (not just food)
Haram - Something forbidden by Islam, which included E number food additives
Jihad - Obligation to fight a holy war against enemies of Islam, including terrorism
Shahid - a martyr for the cause. This would include suicide bombers
Shaitan (Satan) - the source of all evil. Among those seen as Shaitan were western tourists
Apostates - Leaders of Muslim countries who were seen as betraying Islamic. They included President Mubarak of Egypt
Dawa - the true faith (akin to spreading the gospel). Abu Hamza was trying to spread his own brand of Islam, if necessary by force

"Killing a Kafir who is fighting you is OK. Killing a Kafir for any reason, you can say it, it is OK - even if there is no reason for it," he says.

When asked about suicide bombing by a member of his audience Abu Hamza says: "It is not called suicide... this is called martyring, because if the only way to hurt the enemies of Islam except by taking your life for that then it is allowed."

Abu Hamza decided to defend himself in the witness box and for five days was closely examined about every word of his speeches.

He said he was a preacher whose words were based on the Koran. The quotes were meant as generalisations and metaphors - not specific instructions.

MI5 claim

Frequently, however, he displayed a ready hatred of "Zionist" Jews - who he complained had taken over the British Foreign Office as well as the media.

His comments matched his speeches in which he said of Jews: "They are enemies to one another and Allah has cursed them. This is why he sent Hitler for them."

He also complained that in a series of meetings with MI5 and Special Branch between 1997 and 2000 he was told he could continue preaching.

"You have freedom of speech as long as we don't have blood on the streets," Abu Hamza claimed he was told.

Extradition proceedings

If this was true Abu Hamza has now found out that the level of tolerance afforded to radical preachers has changed.

Language which his defence admitted was offensive has now been deemed by a jury to be unlawful.

As for Abu Hamza's future, he still faces extradition proceedings by the US, where he is wanted in connection with terrorism.

But the man who made Finsbury Park mosque a national talking point is unlikely to disappear quietly from the front pages.

Video footage of Abu Hamza preaching used in court


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