Radical Muslim Cleric Goes on Trial in London

A radical cleric encouraged his followers to kill Jews and other non-Muslims in taped sermons found in his home after his arrest, prosecutors said Wednesday at the start of his trial on charges of encouraging murder and fomenting racial hatred.

Prosecutor David Perry told jurors at London's Central Criminal Court that they could expect to hear the defendant, Abu Hamza al-Masri, saying Jews "control the West and must be removed from the Earth" during the trial, which is expected to last nearly a month.

The Egyptian-born cleric — who says he lost his eye and hands fighting Soviet troops in Afghanistan in the 1980s — was a head preacher at London's Finsbury Park mosque, which has been linked to terrorist suspects including alleged Sept. 11 plotter Zacarias Moussaoui and "shoe bomber" Richard Reid.

During his time at the mosque, al-Masri referred to Jews as "blasphemous, traitors and dirty" and said their behavior was "why Hitler was sent into the world," Perry said.

"The prosecution case, in a sentence, is that the defendant, Sheikh Abu Hamza, was preaching murder and hatred in these talks," he said.

Al-Masri, 47, whose real name is Mustafa Kamel Mustafa, sat in the dock of the wood-paneled courtroom flanked by guards, and appeared to listen intently to the prosecution's opening argument.

He is charged with multiple counts of inciting the killing of Jews and other non-Muslims, using threatening or abusive language designed to stir racial hatred, and possessing a terrorism-related document, the "Encyclopedia of the Afghani Jihad."

The book included instructions on how to make explosives and carry out assassinations, Perry told the jury of seven men and five women.

Al-Masri, who has pleaded innocent, faces a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted.

Al-Masri is wanted in the United States on an 11-count indictment from 2004 that charges him with conspiring to provide material support to the Al Qaeda terror network by establishing a training camp in Bly, Oregon; conspiring to take hostages in Yemen and facilitating training in Afghanistan.

Under British law, the charges he faces in the United Kingdom take precedence over the U.S. case.

Perry said al-Masri's taped sermons were long discourses that touched on topics including adultery, licensing laws, the evils of democracy and the ills connected to food additives.

He said the preacher was outlining "a blueprint for living" to an audience that looked to him for guidance.

That blueprint included violent struggle, or jihad, against "those who will not submit" to his interpretation of Islam, the prosecutor said.

Perry said the sermons expressed the views of a man who believed Islam must be spread "by the sword," and who referred to nonbelievers as "germs and viruses."

"If there is an enemy of Islam, just go and kill it," al-Masri had told one of his audiences, the prosecutor said.

Elsewhere on the tapes, Perry said, al-Masri celebrated the deaths of dozens of Russian sailors in the Kursk submarine disaster in 2000, and vowed that "every last Jew is going to be buried in Palestine."

Perry said the prosecution of al-Masri was not an attack on freedom of speech.

"The right to swing my fist ends where your nose begins," he said. "Freedom of expression does not embrace a freedom to encourage murder."