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Islamic Preacher Takes Stand in His Own Defense at Terror Trial

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TWC News: Islamic Preacher Takes Stand in His Own Defense at Terror Trial
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An alleged al-Qaida supporter accused of setting up a terror training camp took the stand in his own defense Wednesday. NY1's Dean Meminger filed the following report.

In a calm and confident voice, Abu Hamza al-Masri took the stand Wednesday and told the court that he would tell the truth, saying, "I gave my oath. I'm no stranger to prison. If my freedom comes at the expense of my dignity and belief, I don't want it."

Federal prosecutors argue al-Masri 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.

However, while briefly on the stand Wednesday afternoon in his defense, he said he didn't do it.

His attorneys said they're confident he can convince the jury he's a not guilty.

"He knows what the charges have been for years. He knows what the truth is. He knows what he needs to say to try to get the truth out. He knows what he needs to say to try to explain any possible misconceptions," said defense attorney Jeremy Schneider. "So we're not concerned."

Many will recognize al-Masri as the fiery preacher who wore hooks on his amputated arms. He was born in Egypt and moved to London as a young man, where he became a civil engineer. He told the court he later started to study Islam.

He was arrested in 2004 in England for inciting racial hatred and encouraging followers to kill non-Muslims. He was brought to the New York in 2012 to face charges.

Prosecutors wrapped up their case after calling several witnesses that included law enforcement officials, kidnapping victims and those who said they attended the terror camp.

"He'll address some of the other evidence that the government has put in with respect to statements and sermons and interviews that he's given through the years and how they fit into his philosophy and how they don't fit into any criminal behavior," said defense attorney Joshua Dratel.

Abu Hamza al-Masri's testimony is expected to last for several days, and it could be interesting when prosecutors question him.

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