Hours after he was extradited from the UK to face terrorism charges and a possible life sentence, one-eyed radical Islamic cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri made his first appearance in a US court, which ordered that he be held under detention till his formal arraignment on October 9.
54-year-old Egyptian-born Hamza, who faces charges like involvement in hostage-taking and conspiracy to set up an al-Qaeda-style militant training, arrived in New York on Saturday along with two other terror suspects Adel Abdel Bary and Khaled al-Fawwaz on a chartered flight.
Two other suspects Babar Ahmad and Talha Ahsa were flown in separately after the five men were extradited from the UK.
Hamza, Bary and Fawwaz had arrived at Westchester County Airport north of New York City in a Gulfstream V aircraft, the FBI said.
Fawwaz, 50, and Bary, 52, were arraigned before US Magistrate Judge Frank Maas at the District Court in Manhattan in a brief hearing during which both entered not guilty pleas through their defence lawyers.
Hamza, who is yet to enter his plea, did not speak at his first appearance yesterday at the same court, where he appeared before Maas separately after the hearing for Fawwaz and Bary.
Maas ordered that all three men be detained and they are scheduled to appear before federal judges in New York on October 9.
Wearing navy blue jail fatigues, Hamza did not have the hooks that he wears in place of his hands which he lost in injuries apparently sustained in Afghanistan. Amid high security, authorities had temporarily removed Hamza’s prosthetic limbs.
Hamza’s lawyer Sabrina Shroff asked the federal judge that he be given a prosthetic device. She also requested he be fitted for special shoes, given access to a dictation device because of his disability and be allowed to take diabetes medication.
The indictment charges Hamza with 11 offences that carry a maximum term of life imprisonment.
The indictment alleges that Hamza was involved in a hostage-taking conspiracy in Yemen in December 1998 when the hostage-takers stormed a caravan of sport utility vehicles carrying 16 tourists, including two United States citizens, and took the tourists hostage by force.
The Yemeni military had launched a rescue operation during which the hostage-takers fought the troops, using the hostages as human shields. During the rescue operation, four of the hostages were killed and several others were wounded.
In late 1999, Hamza and several co-conspirators, including Oussama Abdullah Kassir and Haroon Rashid Aswat, attempted to create a terrorist training camp to support al-Qaeda on property located in Oregon. The primary purpose of the camp was to provide various types of terrorist training, including weapons training.
Additionally, from the spring of 2000 through late 2001, Hamza provided goods and services to the Taliban by, among other things, urging his followers to donate money, goods and services to Taliban-sponsored programmes in Afghanistan.
The indictment charges Fawwaz with conspiracy to kill US nationals, conspiracy to murder, conspiracy to destroy buildings and property of the US and conspiracy to attack national defence utilities and he faces a possible life term in prison.
It charges Bary with 284 offences, including conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction against nationals of the United States, bombing of the US embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, resulting in more than 200 deaths, and bombing of the US embassy in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, resulting in at least 11 deaths. He also faces life imprisonment.