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British hate preacher`s permission needed for jihad, witness tells trial

Last Updated: Saturday, April 19, 2014 - 01:16

London: An American Muslim convert told the New York trial of British hate preacher Abu Hamza on Friday how the cleric`s permission was required if recruits wanted to fight in Afghanistan.

David Smith, who converted to Islam in 1997 at age 17, said he listened in Seattle to recordings of Abu Hamza`s sermons and discussed with British radical Feroz Abbasi, who was later jailed at Guantanamo Bay, how to go fight in Afghanistan.

"To go to the mountains for jihad, I had to make myself available to the Sheikh," Smith told the court in reference to Abu Hamza, the 56-year-old Egyptian-born cleric then living in London.

"He would grant me permission to go up to the mountains for jihad," Smith told the Manhattan federal court.

Smith duly went to London in 1999 to meet Abu Hamza at Finsbury Park mosque. He said he also received weapons training from a Swedish Muslim called Osama Kassir, known as Abu Kadija, at a mosque in Seattle with five or six others.

Kassir taught them how to take apart and assemble an AK-47, how to make a silencer and explained how a bullet "tumbles and rips up flesh," Smith said.

US prosecutors say Abu Hamza had sent Kassir and Haroon Agwat, a British Muslim, to the United States to set up an Al-Qaeda-inspired training camp at Bly in the northwestern state of Oregon.

Kassir flew to Seattle from London with his wife and children in late 1999. Agwat, who later died in Afghanistan, went too.

Smith, who is no longer a Muslim, never traveled to Afghanistan.

Mustafa Kamel Mustafa, better known in Britain as Abu Hamza al-Masri, is pleading not guilty to 11 kidnapping and terror charges which pre-date the 9/11 attacks.

He faces the rest of his life in a maximum security US prison if convicted by the 12-member jury after a trial that is expected to last four to five weeks.Dressed in a T-shirt and grey trousers, his hair and beard white, Abu Hamza has closely followed all court proceedings, taking notes on Friday with a special prosthesis.

He is blind in one eye and lost both arms, blown off at the elbow, in an explosion in Afghanistan years ago.

He is set to take the stand himself during the trial.

On Thursday, the US prosecution laid out its case, branding Abu Hamza a "global exporter of violence and terrorism" intent on waging war against non-Muslims.

It is the second high-profile terror trial heard in a Manhattan federal court after Osama bin Laden`s son-in-law, former Al-Qaeda spokesman Suleiman Abu Ghaith was convicted on March 26.

Abu Hamza`s charges relate to the 1998 kidnapping in Yemen of 16 Western tourists, four of whom were killed, and conspiracy to set up an Al-Qaeda-style training camp in Oregon in late 1999.

He is also accused of providing material support to bin Laden`s terror network, of wanting to set up a computer lab for the Taliban and of sending recruits for terror training in Afghanistan.

His defense lawyer Joshua Dratel told the court on Thursday that his client`s "harsh" anti-US and anti-Israeli opinions may be unpalatable, but that they were only words, not actions.

The trial marks the culmination of a 10-year legal battle.

He was first indicted in the United States in 2004 and served eight years in prison in Britain before losing his last appeal in the European Court of Human Rights against extradition.

First Published: Saturday, April 19, 2014 - 01:16

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