Islamic cleric gets life in plot to kidnap tourists in Yemen
NEW YORK (AP) — An Egyptian-born cleric who turned a London mosque into a training ground for extremist Islamists was sent to prison for life on Friday by a judge who cited his lack of remorse for “barbaric” acts that included aiding kidnappers who killed four tourists in Yemen in 1998 and sending two men to the United States to open a terrorist training camp in Oregon.
“If released, you would do it again,” U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest told Mustafa Kamel Mustafa, a former engineer who was jailed by Great Britain on separate charges in 2004 and extradited to the United States in 2012.
The white-haired Mustafa remained composed as the judge announced the sentence, saying it was significant “you have not expressed sympathy or remorse for the victims of the Yemeni kidnapping.”
She called his actions “barbaric, misguided and wrong” and read aloud the names of the victims, saying, “With the passage of time, their names have not been lost.”
The judge said a life sentence was necessary in part because Mustafa, 56, had “not had a change of heart” and would try to inspire others to commit violence if he were released.
She quoted from his speeches, including one in which he advocated killing people and another in which he called terrorism “a very effective weapon.” She called him a “very complicated man,” saying he had been raised in privilege, attending private schools and getting an advanced degree.
She acknowledged he was loved by his family but added: “Evil comes in many forms but doesn’t always show itself immediately in all its darkness.”
Mustafa’s lawyers had urged leniency, citing his missing hands and forearms from what he says was a 1993 accident with explosives when he helped the Pakistani military as a civil engineer. Mustafa also suffers from psoriasis, diabetes and high blood pressure.
The judge said she will not prejudge the ability of the Federal Bureau of Prisons to properly evaluate Mustafa’s needs and to designate an appropriate prison.
Asked to speak, Mustafa, also known as Abu Hamza al-Masri, maintained his innocence and called for a worldwide investigation into the cause of the World Trade Center’s collapse on Sept. 11, 2001. But, otherwise, he spent 15 minutes complaining about life in prison as a double amputee. He spoke calmly, in a professorial tone he mastered during his trial testimony.
In May, a jury convicted Mustafa of aiding terrorists who kidnapped tourists in Yemen by consulting with their leader and by providing them with a satellite phone. He also was convicted of helping others plot to open a terror training camp in Bly, Oregon.
The judge called the satellite phone an “indispensable tool” and said that even though the planned training camp never materialized, “success of that camp would have meant death to many people.”
In a statement, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “Abu Hamza’s blood-soaked journey from cleric to convict, from Imam to inmate, is now complete.”
Defense attorney Sam Schmidt told the judge that housing Mustafa at Colorado’s Supermax federal prison, sometimes referred to as the Alcatraz of the Rockies, would violate assurances the United States made to British judges to secure his 2012 extradition.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Edward Kim said Mustafa has tried to dictate where he’s imprisoned as part of his effort to remain in control.
Kim said messages Mustafa repeatedly delivered from his pulpit at London’s Finsbury Park Mosque, which attracted men including Sept. 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui and shoe bomber Richard Reid, were hate-filled.
“His ideology was simple, and it was brutal — non-Muslims should be killed,” he said.
The judge said she reviewed tapes of an interview hostage victim Mary Quin, a U.S. citizen who now lives in New Zealand, conducted with Mustafa in his London mosque as Quin worked on a book. The judge said she was struck that Mustafa referred to the kidnappings without remorse, saying, “We didn’t know it would be that bad.”
She said it was as if “you were remarking on a day that had rain when you thought there would be sunshine.”