Radical cleric Abu Hamza jailed for life by US court

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A judge said she could not think of a time when it would be safe to release Abu Hamza

Radical Muslim cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri has been sentenced to life in prison by a court in New York for supporting terrorism.

He was convicted in May of multiple charges, including hostage-taking and plotting to set up a terrorism training camp in the US.

His trial followed a lengthy extradition process from the UK.

During the sentencing, his lawyers asked the judge to take into account his missing hands and eye.

They also argued a plan to imprison Abu Hamza in Colorado’s Supermax federal prison would violate assurances the US made to judges in London to secure his 2012 extradition.

Prosecutors argued on Friday that the US government had never made such a promise to the UK and life in prison was the only appropriate sentence.

Judge Katherine Forrest called Abu Hamza’s actions “barbaric” and “misguided” and said she was sentencing him to life because she could not think of a time when it would be safe to release him.

She added she would leave the decision where he would spend his imprisonment to federal prison officials.

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At the scene, 
Steve Swann, BBC News Home Affairs Reporter

Finally, after years of legal wrangling, it all ended here in a wood-paneled US courtroom close to the site where the Twin Towers once stood.

There was none of the trademark ranting from the firebrand cleric who for years had preached hatred and violence.

Today, dressed in prison overalls, when he was invited to address the crowded court he spoke quietly and asked for leniency. He said he was innocent and complained about his treatment in prison.

The judge read out the names of the four British tourists killed in the Yemen kidnapping in 1998 and described Abu Hamza’s actions as barbaric.

The former nightclub bouncer turned extremist cleric was then sentenced to spend the remainder of his life in obscurity.

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The US justice department hailed the sentence.

“Abu Hamza is an unrepentant all-purpose terrorist,” Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Carlin said in a statement.

“With today’s sentence, he is being held accountable for the many ways in which he supported terrorism and other terrorists through much of his life.

The cleric, who was born Mustafa Kamel Mustafa, was convicted last May in New York on 11 counts, including involvement in a plot to take Western tourists hostages in Yemen in 1998.

Three Britons and an Australian died when the Yemeni army launched a rescue bid.

Laurence Whitehouse, from Hampshire, UK, escaped but his wife Margaret was killed.

“There has been a gross injustice in the length of time taken in bringing these matters to a conclusion.” Mr Whitehouse said.

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