NEW YORK – A partially blind extremist Egyptian-born preacher charged in multiple terrorism plots entered a U.S. court for the first time Saturday without the use of his arms, complaining that prosthetic hooks he uses were taken away as he and four other terrorism defendants were flown to New York overnight from London.
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 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, pleaded not guilty 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.