Radical Islamist cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri was sentenced to life imprisonment by a U.S. court on Friday, according to media reports. The Egypt-born preacher had been found guilty in May last year of aiding militants around the world, including abetting the kidnapping of 16 tourists in Yemen in 1998 that led to the deaths of four hostages.
Abu Hamza had also been convicted of trying to help a U.S. government informant establish a militant training camp in Oregon and providing material support to al Qaeda, according to media reports. The prosecutors had reportedly called for a life sentence, terming him a “global terrorist leader who orchestrated plots around the world.”
Handing down the sentence, U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest in Manhattan reportedly labeled Abu Hamza’s actions “barbaric” and “misguided” and said that he had not expressed any sympathy or remorse for his crimes.
The judge also rejected an appeal by Abu Hamza’s lawyers, who had urged the court to take into account his disability -- he is missing an eye and both hands -- and house him in a medical facility instead of a high-security “supermax” prison where he might not receive adequate medical attention, according to media reports. Supermax prisons hold some of the most notorious American terrorists and murderers in solitary confinement.
Forrest reportedly said that the decision to determine where Abu Hamza would spend his sentence would be left to federal prison officials.
The U.S. justice department welcomed the verdict and said that the Abu Hamza was finally being “held accountable for the many ways in which he supported terrorism and other terrorists through much of his life.”
“This case was charged over ten years ago and was tried after years of extradition proceedings -- and is but one example of our resolve to pursue those who threaten the United States and our interests anywhere in the world, no matter how long it takes,” John Carlin, assistant attorney general for the National Security Division, said in a statement released Friday.
The verdict comes over two years after Abu Hamza was extradited to the U.S. from the UK after a protracted legal battle. Abu Hamza, whose real name is Mustafa Kamel Mustafa, has already spent eight years in a UK prison for inciting violence.