LONDON – British prosecutors charged radical Islamic cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri (search) on Tuesday with incitement to murder for allegedly urging followers to kill Jews and other non-Muslims, an indictment that pre-empted a U.S. bid to extradite him on terror charges.
Al-Masri, the former head preacher at a mosque linked to several terrorism suspects, faces 11 terrorist charges in the United States.
But a lawyer representing the U.S. government asked that the extradition case against him be suspended until the British charges are resolved, a request granted by the judge Tuesday.
British prosecutors read out a 16-count indictment against al-Masri, including 10 charges soliciting or encouraging others to murder people who do not believe in the Islamic faith. Four of those 10 charges specify that al-Masri urged the killing of Jews.
Prosecutors said the incitement to murder was contained in speeches recorded on tape to be used as evidence.
Only one of the 16 charges read out in Belmarsh Magistrates Court (search) on Tuesday falls under anti-terror legislation. That indictment accuses al-Masri of possessing a book called the Encyclopedia of the Afghani Jihad.
Hamza also faces four charges of using "threatening, abusive or insulting behavior" to stir up racial hatred and one count of possessing threatening, abusive or insulting recordings.
The cleric — who has one eye and hooks for hands, which he says were lost fighting Soviet troops in Afghanistan in the 1980s — nodded when asked if he understood the charges against him. He did not apply for bail and faces a preliminary hearing at the Central Criminal Court on Oct. 26.
He is being held at the high-security Belmarsh Prison in south London.
Al-Masri, 46, is former head preacher at London's Finsbury Park mosque (search), which has been linked to terrorist suspects including alleged Sept. 11 plotter Zacarias Moussaoui and "shoe bomber" Richard Reid.
He was arrested in May after U.S. authorities laid 11 charges against him relating to terrorism, including allegedly trying to establish a terrorist training camp in Oregon, involvement in hostage-taking in Yemen and funding terrorism training in Afghanistan.
The lawyer representing the United States said Tuesday that American officials intend to ask for the extradition case to be resumed once the British case is over.
Al-Masri, a native of Egypt who is fighting the government's decision to strip him of his British citizenship, is also wanted in Yemen on charges of hostage-taking and conspiracy in connection with a December 1998 incident that left four tourists dead.
The Encyclopedia of Afghani Jihad (search), or holy war, is produced by Usama bin Laden's Al Qaeda network and provides what the group calls the "basic rules of sabotage and terror" with highly technical detail, including diagrams.
A copy of the manual was obtained by The Associated Press in 2001 after it was reportedly stolen from the former headquarters of bin Laden's organization in Afghanistan.
The preface to Mouswada al Jihad al Afghani, the Arabic name of the manual, says it is meant for use in the battle against "the enemies of our movement, the enemies of Allah, for any Islamic group."