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Last Updated: Tuesday, 31 October 2006, 16:51 GMT
Radical cleric 'had fair trial'
Abu Hamza preaching outside Finsbury Park Mosque
Abu Hamza: Falsely prosecuted, say his lawyers
The trial of a radical Islamic cleric was "in all respects fair", the Court of Appeal has heard.

The prosecution said Abu Hamza al-Masri's appeal against convictions for incitement to murder and race-hate offences should be dismissed.

He claims his trial was prejudiced by a media campaign against him, but prosecutors said the trial was fair.

Abu Hamza was found guilty of 11 of the 15 charges he faced and jailed for seven years in February.

The judges later reserved their ruling, although no date has been announced for the decision.

The Egyptian-born cleric, who is being held at Belmarsh high-security prison, was found guilty of offences including crimes under the 1861 Offences Against The Person Act.

At the start of the second day of the appeal, lawyers for Abu Hamza argued that the 1861 legislation only covered a British citizen being incited to kill someone abroad - and not foreigners encouraged to murder other foreigners overseas.

Prosecutors had failed to prove British citizens were in Abu Hamza's audience and, as a result, he should not have been found guilty, said his defence team.

The system of trial by jury is based on the assumption that the jury will follow the directions they receive from the trial judge and that they will return a true verdict
David Perry QC

Those offences centred on speeches made by Abu Hamza at a number of mosques between 1997 and 2000.

But David Perry QC, for the Crown, told the London court that the conviction was "safe" and the appeal should be dismissed.

In contesting the appeal, Mr Perry told the judges: "The trial judge correctly decided that the proceedings against the appellant did not amount to an abuse of the process of the court and the trial was in all respects fair."

Earlier in the appeal, the cleric's defence team said a fair trial was "impossible" in his case because of the delay in prosecuting him, combined with media reports.

Preaching 'terrorism'

Edward Fitzgerald QC, for the cleric, has argued that it was "unfair and oppressive" to put him on trial in 2006 for speeches made in the years 1997 to 2000 "in respect of which the police had taken no action at the time".

During his month-long trial the prosecution alleged the cleric was a recruiting sergeant for global terrorism.

The case against him rested on the claim that in sermons at the Finsbury Park mosque in north London and in Luton, Blackburn and Whitechapel, east London, "he was preaching terrorism, homicidal violence and hatred".

The radical cleric was subsequently convicted of inciting his followers to murder non-Muslims and Jews.

Jury system

Abu Hamza was also convicted of stirring up racial hatred and possessing a terror "manual" - the Encyclopaedia of the Afghani Jihad.

The manual featured a dedication to al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, as well as containing a list of potential targets, including Big Ben and the Eiffel Tower.

According to the prosecution, submissions made on the cleric's behalf "suggest that the appellant could not fairly be tried in relation to any criminal offence and that he is therefore immune from prosecution".

"The system of trial by jury is based on the assumption that the jury will follow the directions they receive from the trial judge and that they will return a true verdict according to the evidence," said Mr Perry.

He said that in Abu Hamza's case there was "absolutely no reason" to think that the trust in the jury to return such a verdict was "in any sense misplaced".


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