Abu Hamza al-Masri, 54, indicted under the name Mustafa Kamel Mustafa, entered a Manhattan courtroom under heavy security to face charges he conspired with Seattle men to set up a terrorist training camp in Oregon and helped abduct 16 hostages, two of them American tourists, in Yemen in 1998.
Al-Masri came into court with both arms exposed through his short-sleeved blue prison shirt. His court-appointed lawyer, Sabrina Shroff, asked that his prosthetics be immediately returned “so he can use his arms.”
In the 1990s, al-Masri turned London’s Finsbury Park Mosque into a training ground for extremist Islamists, attracting men including Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui and “shoe bomber” Richard Reid.
His court appearance followed soon after two other defendants brought to New York, Khaled al-Fawwaz and Adel Abdul Bary, entered not guilty pleas to charges that they participated in the bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa in 1998.
The attacks killed 224 people, including 12 Americans. They were indicted in a case that also charged Osama bin Laden.
In New Haven, Conn., earlier in the day, Syed Talha Ahsan, 33, and Babar Ahmad, 38, entered not guilty pleas to charges that they provided terrorists in Afghanistan and Chechnya with cash, recruits and equipment. All five of the men face up to life in prison if they are convicted.
Al-Masri, a one-time nightclub bouncer, entered no plea, saying only “I do” when he was asked by U.S. Magistrate Judge Frank Maas whether he swears that his financial affidavit used to determine is he qualifies for a court-appointed lawyer was correct.
Shroff told Maas that al-Masri needed use of his arms. “Otherwise, he will not be able to function in a civilized manner.”
She also asked for a dictating machine, saying he can’t take notes, and the return of his diabetes medication and special shoes that prevent him from slipping. She said he will need a special diet in prison and a full medical evaluation.
His beard and hair white, al-Masri peered through glasses as he consulted with Shroff and another court-appointed lawyer, Jerrod Thompson-Hicks, in a proceeding that lasted less than 15 minutes.
Al-Masri has one eye and claims to have lost his hands fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan. His lawyers in England said he suffers from depression, chronic sleep deprivation, diabetes and other ailments.