A U.S. judge sentenced British hate preacher Abu Hamza on Friday to life in prison after a jury convicted him on 11 charges of kidnapping and terrorism, calling his crimes “evil” and “barbaric.”
The hook-handed imam, blind in one eye and a double-hand amputee, became a tabloid bogeyman in Britain for preaching vitriolic, anti-American sermons at the Finsbury Park mosque a north London. For years, Abu Hamza used words words that U.S. and UK authorities say helped inspire a generation of militants, including British would-be shoe bomber Richard Reid.
Friday was his final chance to convince the U.S. judge that he should not spend the rest of his life in prison, eight months after a federal jury in New York convicted him of terrorism charges.
He was found guilty of providing a satellite phone and advice to Yemeni militants who kidnapped Western tourists in 1998. Four hostages died in the operation.
He was also convicted of sending two followers to Oregon to establish a militant training camp and of dispatching an associate to Afghanistan to aid al Qaeda and the Taliban against the United States.
In their sentencing recommendation to Judge Katherine Forrest, lawyers for Abu Hamza focused on his need for specialized medical care as a double amputee.
While they asked for a term shorter than life, they conceded that any lengthy sentence would likely keep him behind bars until his death and pressed Forrest to send Abu Hamza to a medical facility instead of a maximum security prison.
Prosecutors urged a life sentence for a man they called a “global terrorist leader who orchestrated plots around the world” and said in court papers that the question of where Abu Hamza is imprisoned should be left to the Bureau of Prisons.
Abu Hamza, whose real name is Mustafa Kamel Mustafa, testified in his defense at trial. He denied he sent anyone to Oregon or Afghanistan and claimed he acted as an intermediary during the Yemen kidnapping in search of a peaceful resolution.
He also asserted for the first time that he lost his hands in an accidental explosion two decades ago in Pakistan, where he said he was working as an engineer, contradicting widespread reports that he lost the limbs while fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s.
Abu Hamza spent eight years in prison in Britain for inciting violence before his extradition in 2012 to the United States to face terrorism charges.