Tuesday, September 16, 2014

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Jury Selected to Hear Arguments in Islamic Preacher's Terror Trial

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TWC News: Jury Selected to Hear Arguments in Islamic Preacher's Terror Trial
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Jurors have been selected and opening arguments are now slated for Thursday in the trial of Egyptian Islamic preacher Abu Hamza al-Masri, who was extradited from Britain on charges he conspired to support al-Qaida by allegedly trying to create a training camp in Oregon. NY1's Jon Weinstein filed the following report.

Facing 11 terrorism-related charges, Mustafa Kamel Mustafa sat mostly silent as the jurors who will decide his fate were chosen on Monday.

The Egyptian-born cleric, also known as Abu Hamza al-Masri, is accused of providing support to terrorists.

Federal prosecutors say Mustafa tried to set up a terror training camp in Oregon in 1999 and provided support to al-Qaida and the Taliban in Afghanistan. He is also accused of supporting terrorists in Yemen who kidnapped two Americans and 14 other tourists.

Mustafa has pleaded not guilty and has also indicated that he plans to testify.

"His mindset is that he's eager to get this thing going," said defense attorney Jeremy Schneider. "He's had enough. He's been in jail for longer than anybody would like to be, and he's eager to have his day in court.

Mustafa's fiery rhetoric got him jailed in the United Kingdom in 2004 on charges of inciting racial hatred and encouraging followers to kill non-Muslims. He was sent to the city to face these charges in 2012.

During jury selection, the judge asked Mustafa to stand in front of prospective jurors so they could see that he has amputated hands, which he claims to have lost fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan. He also has only one eye.

"We wanted to make sure that if the jurors had any reaction or response to what he looked like, they would hopefully be honest and tell us," Schneider said. "They responded that they didn't, and that was it."

This is the second high-profile terror trial in Lower Manhattan in recent weeks. Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, Osama bin Laden's son-in-law, was convicted on terror charges last month in the same courthouse. He's facing a possible life sentence.

Though there's been much discussion about whether Manhattan is the right venue for a trial, defense attorneys said this is preferable.

"I think it makes sense that if you're being charged by the United States, he faces United States justice in United States justice courthouse, not in the military," Schneider said.

Court will be back in session Thursday morning, when both sides are scheduled to present their opening arguments.

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