A federal appeals court has upheld a radical British Islamist cleric's 2014 terrorism conviction.
Mustafa Kamel Mustafa, more commonly known as Abu Hamza, was convicted of 11 terrorism charges in Manhattan federal court and sentenced to life in prison. He was charged with multiple counts of providing material support to al-Qaida and with participating in a hostage-taking operation in Yemen. He also helped set up a terrorist training camp in Bly, Oregon, and facilitated violent jihad in Afghanistan.
He spent much of the 1990s running London's Finsbury Park Mosque. He was arrested in 2004, triggering a nine-year legal battle over his extradition to the United States.
In its ruling Tuesday, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals did dismiss convictions on two counts relating to helping the jihad in Afghanistan in 2000-01 because U.S. law relating to providing material support to terrorists was confined to material support "within the United States" at the time of the conspiracy.
"Evidence that Mustafa, in London, arranged for [Feroz] Abbasi to be transported from London to Afghanistan, could not satisfy the statute's nexus requirement because no part of the conduct occurred within the United States," the court ruled.
The terrorism statute was amended after the 9/11 attacks to include material support that occurred outside the United States.
The Yemen attack took place in December 1998, and involved the abduction of 16 tourists, including two American. Abu Hamza "aided and abetted the terrorist Islamic Army of Aden" in the attack by providing a satellite phone and advice to the kidnappers. Four hostages were killed, which Abu Hamza subsequently described as "a good thing" in Islam.
In 1999, Abu Hamza and several co-conspirators tried to establish a terrorist training camp in Bly, Oregon, to support al-Qaida. He directed two men to travel from London to Bly to help set up the camp.
One, Oussama Kassir "brought with him various tools to conduct this training, including manuals on manufacturing poisons, nerve gas, and explosives...[and was] also was in possession of letters addressed to both Usama Bin Laden and Abu Hamza, reflecting his support for those individuals," a prosecution sentencing memo said.
Kassir was convicted in connection with the conspiracy and sentenced in 2015 to 20 years in prison.
At his sentencing hearing, U.S. District Judge Katherine B. Forrest described Abu Hamza's conduct as "barbaric, misguided and wrong" and remarked, "[I]t is important to me that you have not expressed sympathy for the victims of the Yemeni kidnappings."