Abu Hamza al-Masri – who was once one of Britain’s most infamous “radical preachers” – secretly worked for MI5, his lawyers have told a court in the US.
Abu Hamza’s lawyers claimed the Egyptian-born preacher, who was giving evidence for the first time in his trial in New York, had been tasked to “keep the streets of London safe”.
Giving evidence, the defendant, who was born Mustafa Kamel Mustafa, told his life story.
He told the court how he started “on the wrong side of morality”, running a strip club in Soho, before becoming a devoted follower of Islam. He said he had been a member of the Royal Society of Engineers and had also worked at Sandhurst.
Then his lawyer told the judge, without the jury present, that Abu Hamza secretly worked for MI5 in London.
The defence wants to introduce as evidence documents from Scotland Yard, which it claims demonstrate how the preacher co-operated with police to calm tensions and to help release hostages in Yemen. But the judge has ruled the evidence inadmissible.
Abu Hamza was jailed in the UK for inciting murder and racial hatred with his sermons at Finsbury Park Mosque in north London, before being extradited to the US nearly two years ago. He faces life imprisonment in the US if found guilty of aiding terrorism.
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US prosecutors allege that he provided a satellite phone and £500 worth of call time to help kidnappers in Yemen. He has pleaded not guilty.
He answered “never” when asked if he had assisted the kidnapping of western tourists in Yemen in 1998 and set up a jihadist training camp in Oregon. And he said he had never helped al-Qaeda or other militant groups.