The 55-year-old imam, who is using his birth name, Mustafa Kamel
Mustafa, during the trial in federal court in New York, faces life
in prison if convicted of the most serious charges against him. He
was extradited from Britain in 2012 after spending several years in
jail on charges of inciting his followers to kill non-believers.
U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest and lawyers for both the
government and Abu Hamza settled on a jury of 12 and four alternates
after several hours of questions intended to expose potential bias.
Among the jurors selected were a retired bus dispatcher, a postal
worker and a doctor originally from Sarajevo.
Forrest also ruled on Monday that a main government witness, Saajid
Badat, can testify via closed-circuit television from Britain
because he would face possible arrest if he traveled to the United
Badat, a former al Qaeda operative, plotted with Briton Richard Reid
to blow up airplanes using shoe bombs in 2001 before backing out at
the last minute. He pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with
authorities in Britain, where he is living under an assumed name
after serving six years in prison.
Badat's lawyer told Forrest last week that he would not come to the
United States, where he remains under indictment for the shoe bomb
Badat has testified via video in two terrorism-related trials in the
United States, including that of Osama bin Laden son-in-law Suleiman
Abu Ghaith, who was convicted by a jury in New York last month.
Lawyers for Abu Hamza had opposed the prosecutors' request to allow
the video testimony, arguing that the government had only itself to
blame for his unavailability.
Reid pleaded guilty in 2002 and is serving a life sentence.
Abu Hamza, a fiery orator, is missing one eye and both hands and is
known for using a prosthetic metal hook. He has said he suffered the
injuries while doing humanitarian work in Afghanistan in the 1980s,
though authorities say they occurred while he fought with the
mujahideen against troops from the Soviet Union.
[to top of second column]
In court on Monday, Abu Hamza wore a light gray shirt and pants. He
used the hook on his right hand to hold a pen for note-taking during
jury selection. As a condition of his extradition, he must be tried
in civilian court and cannot face the death penalty.
The trial, which is expected to last four to five weeks, will be put
on hold Tuesday and Wednesday for Passover. Opening statements are
scheduled to take place on Thursday.
Abu Hamza, who has said he is innocent, has indicated he plans to
testify in his own defense against charges including an attempt to
set up a jihadist training camp in Bly, Oregon and raising money to
send militants to train in Afghanistan.
Prosecutors also accuse him of providing assistance to a group of
militants that took 16 tourists hostage in Yemen in 1998. Three
Britons and an Australian were killed during a rescue mission by the
While at the Finsbury Park mosque, the preacher had contacts with
several high-profile militants, according to British officials. They
included Reid as well as French citizen Zacarias Moussaoui, who
pleaded guilty in a U.S. court to charges of conspiring in the
September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States that killed nearly
(Reporting by Joseph Ax; editing by Noeleen Walder and Grant McCool)
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