Controversial preacher Abu Hamza al-Masri has been sentenced to life in prison, eight months after he was convicted of federal terrorism charges in New York.
US District Judge Katherine Forrest in Manhattan imposed the sentence Abu Hamza, whom jurors had found guilty of providing a satellite phone and advice to Yemeni militants who kidnapped Western tourists in 1998, leading to the deaths of four hostages.
The defendant was also convicted of sending two followers to Oregon to establish a training camp, and dispatching an associate to Afghanistan to aid al Qaeda and the Taliban against the United States.
“Abu Hamza was not convicted for his words,” federal prosecutor Edward Kim told Forrest prior to the sentencing. “His crimes truly spanned the globe, from Yemen to Afghanistan to the United States.”
Abu Hamza, 56, had gained notoriety for his fiery sermons at the Finsbury Park Mosque in London, which US and UK authorities said helped inspire a generation of militants, including the would-be shoe bomber Richard Reid.
”I still maintain my innocence,” Abu Hamza told the judge prior to being sentenced.
He asked that corrections officials arrange to properly treat his disabilities, and that any prison time not constitute “a backdoor for torture.”
Defence lawyers had urged that Abu Hamza be sentenced to a term shorter than life in prison.
They also said any sentence should take into account their client’s need as a double amputee for specialised medical care, pressing for Abu Hamza to be sent to a medical facility instead of a maximum security prison.
Prosecutors, in contrast, called Abu Hamza a “global terrorist leader who orchestrated plots around the world.”
Abu Hamza, whose real name is Mustafa Kamel Mustafa, testified in his defence at trial. He denied he sent anyone to Oregon or Afghanistan and claimed he acted as an intermediary during the Yemen kidnapping in search of a peaceful resolution.
He also said for the first time that he lost his hands in an accidental explosion in Pakistan while working two decades ago as an engineer, contradicting many reports that he lost the limbs while fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s.
Abu Hamza spent eight years in prison in Britain for inciting violence before his 2012 extradition to the United States.