Muslim Leader Calls Jailed Terror Cleric an 'Embarrassment'

By Mark Mayne | July 7, 2008 | 8:17 PM EDT

London ( - A prominent British Muslim says the radical cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri, jailed this week for seven years for terror-related offenses, is "an embarrassment to the Muslim community."

Ghayasuddin Siddiqui, leader of the Muslim Parliament and director of London's Muslim Institute, said the controversial preacher was an "arrogant, illiterate person, with no knowledge of Islam."

He said Hamza "represented a very small fraction of Muslim community."

Hamza was convicted at the Old Bailey in London Tuesday on 11 counts, including soliciting murder, stirring up racial hatred and possessing a training manual "of use to terrorists."

The judge ordered him to serve the sentences concurrently, effectively jailing him for seven years.

Prime Minister Tony Blair's office said the verdict in the trial proved "that the original decision to prosecute was the right one."

Egyptian-born Hamza now faces a renewed extradition bid by the U.S., where he is wanted on terror charges that could lead to a 99-year prison term. These include helping to plot a deadly terror attack in Yemen in 1998, funding al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan, and planning a U.S.-based training camp in Oregon.

"He was directly and deliberately stirring up hatred against Jewish people and encouraging murder of those he referred to as non-believers," prosecutors said in a statement.

"Not only did he repeatedly advocate that Muslims should kill non-believers, he set out to persuade his listeners that it was part of their religious duty to do so."

Home Secretary Charles Clarke said Abu Hamza was a "very, very bad man and the fact that the decision has been taken is one I welcome very much."

The cleric's lawyer, Muddassar Arani, said Hamza would appeal the convictions.

"He feels that he is a prisoner of faith and this is a slow martyrdom for him," she told reporters.

Most of the charges date from a period in the late 1990s, when European security services dubbed the British capital "Londonistan" - a hotbed for radicals gathering around the Finsbury Park mosque where Hamza preached.

Convicted "shoe bomber" Richard Reid and 9/11 plotter Zacarais Moussaoui were among those who spent time at the mosque. Suspects in the Madrid bombings of 2004 are also thought to have visited.

A plot to carry out chemical attacks with ricin poison, for which an Algerian man was convicted last year, involved men who worshipped at the mosque.

"It was seen and known as a safe haven to meet like-minded people, somewhere to get connections and to get orientated," a police source said.

In January 2003, British police raided the mosque and found gas masks, chemical weapons suits, CS spray, blank passports and driving licenses, hunting knives, and guns that fire blanks.

Police sources say the guns could have been converted to fire live ammunition, and may have been used in terror training exercises in remote mountain locations in Britain.

Hamza was cleared of four charges, three of soliciting to murder and one of threatening and abusive language likely to stir up racial hatred.

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