MOSCOW, January 28 (RAPSI, Ingrid Burke) - US prosecutors have moved for an anonymous jury in the case against terror suspect Mostafa Kamel Mostafa, known broadly as Abu Hamza, who faces charges in connection with a 1998 hostage crisis in Yemen, the attempted establishment of a “jihad training camp” in Oregon, and the support of “violent jihad” in Afghanistan between 2000 and 2001.
A motion for an anonymous jury filed Monday by US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara requests a court order directing prospective, selected, and alternate jurors not to reveal their names, addresses, or places of employment. Prosecutors seek various other stipulations as well: the jurors should be kept together during court recesses, the US Marshals Service should either take the jurors to or provide them with lunch as a group on a daily basis throughout the course of the trial, and the jurors should be transported as a group each day by the US Marshals Service between the courthouse and an undisclosed central location from which they can depart separately.
A memo accompanying the motion states that anonymous juries operating within the requested parameters have been utilized in other prominent terrorism cases.
The memo notes that the federal judicial circuit within which the trial will be held has frequently upheld the use of jury anonymity as a means of minimizing adverse effects on the opinions of jurors toward the defendant.
Three factors are generally considered within the circuit in making such a determination, according to the memo: the nature and seriousness of the charges; the potential for corruption of the judicial process – such as through fear of personal safety; and expectations of widespread publicity.
The memo asserts that all three factors in this case weigh in favor of jury anonymity.
With regard to the first factor, the memo notes: “the seriousness of the charges against the defendant and the nature of the conduct underlying those charges will likely raise in at least some jurors’ minds a reasonable fear for their own safety.”
On the second factor, the memo boldly asserts: “Al Qaeda has unequivocally demonstrated, through words and actions, that it poses a threat to the judicial process… And the defendant is alleged to have worked for years to support al Qaeda, by attempting to establish a jihad training camp in the United States and sending one of his followers to Afghanistan to support al Qaeda.”
The memo further states that the trial has already attracted a media firestorm, adding that: “Juror anonymity is an effective remedial measure to prevent possible prejudice and inappropriate contact by the press and others.”
Long road to justice
Bringing Abu Hamza to justice has proven to be a long and trying journey for US prosecutors.
In May 2004, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that he had been arrested in London at the request of the US in connection with terrorism charges filed against him in the latter. The statement added that the US government was actively seeking Abu Hamza’s extradition from the UK.
The statement conveyed confidence on the part of US prosecutors that Abu Hamza would be brought to justice.
Then-US Attorney General John Ashcroft cited the willingness of the US to bring terror suspects to justice by any legitimate means necessary, saying: “As today’s arrest makes clear, the Department of Justice is bringing the full weight of the criminal law against those who support the activities of terrorists… The United States will use every available diplomatic, legal and administrative tool to pursue and prosecute those who facilitate terrorist activity around the world, and we will not stop until the war on terrorism is won,” as quoted in the 2004 statement.
Christopher Wray, who was serving at the time as Assistant Attorney General, followed up with a note of optimism, stating: “The indictment alleges that Abu Hamza was a terrorist facilitator with a global reach - from aiding hostage takers in Yemen, to attempting to set up a jihad training camp in Oregon, to sending people for terrorist training in Afghanistan… Those who support our terrorist enemies anywhere in the world must know that we will not rest until the threat they pose is eradicated.”
What followed was a years-long extradition battle that ended up in the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).
As explained in the ECHR’s April 2012 judgment, a US Grand Jury indictment was returned against Abu Hamza on April 19, 2004. The US then formally requested the suspect’s extradition on May 21, 2004.
According to a separate ECHR admissibility ruling, Abu Hamza was charged in October 2004 with “various counts of soliciting to murder and stirring up racial hatred.” The 2012 ECHR judgment states that the extradition proceedings against Abu Hamza were adjourned when he was convicted in the UK and sentenced to seven years in prison, but that the proceedings resumed when the appeals process had reached its conclusion.
As explained by the 2012 ECHR judgment, a UK District Court judge ruled in November 2007 that Abu Hamza should be extradited, and the Secretary of State upheld this decision in February 2008.
Abu Hamza then appealed to the UK High Court, which dismissed the appeal in June 2008. He then applied for leave to appeal to the House of Lords. In July 2008, the BBC reported that Abu Hamza had been refused leave to appeal to the House of Lords.
According to the ECHR judgment, he filed an application with the Strasbourg court on August 1, 2008.
In April 2012, the ECHR held that there would be no violation of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights (Convention) if Abu Hamza were extradited to the US based on the conditions of supermax prison ADR Florence, or on the length of the possible sentence he might face. The judgment became final on September 24, 2012.
The DOJ announced in October 2012 that Abu Hamza had arrived in New York following his extradition from the UK.
According to the indictment, Abu Hamza conspired with others in December 1998 to take a group of Western tourists hostage in Yemen. The indictment explains: “On or about December 28, 1998, the hostage-takers stormed a caravan of sport utility vehicles carrying sixteen Western tourists and took the tourists hostage by use of force.” The Yemeni military then attempted to rescue the hostages, at which point the “hostage takers used the hostages as human shields and attempted to fight off the Yemeni military,” according to the indictment. Four hostages were killed and several wounded in the ensuing combat.
The indictment goes on to allege that Hamza conspired with others and provided material support for a “violent jihad training camp” in Oregon. These efforts included, among other things, the stockpiling of weapons and ammunition within the US. The indictment goes on to allege that Abu Hamza’s two co-defendants Oussama Abdullah Kassir and Haroom Rashid Aswat travelled to Bly, Oregon – telling individuals there that “they had been sent there by [Abu Hamza] to train people for jihad and to assess the suitability of the Bly, Oregon property for a Jihad training camp. [Kassir and Aswat] also both told individuals at the property that they supported Usama bin Laden and al Qaeda, and had received their own jihad training in Afghanistan.”
The indictment further alleges in part that Abu Hamza provided and concealed material support and resources to terrorists facilitating violent jihad in Afghanistan, and that Abu Hamza conspired to supply goods and services to the Taliban in violation of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA).
With regard to the latter, the indictment alleges that Abu Hamza posted messages on the Supporters of Shariah (SOS) website urging his followers to donate money, goods, and services to Taliban programs in Afghanistan. This activity is alleged to have occurred between Spring 2000 and at least September 6, 2001.
According to the ECHR judgment, Abu Hamza is a British national and was born in 1958. The judgment goes on to describe his myriad health problems, including: type-two diabetes, high blood pressure, poor vision in his left eye, no vision in his right eye, psoriasis, excessive sweating, and two amputated forearms. He gained notoriety with UK tabloids for the fact that he frequently sported a hook in place of one of his hands. The London Evening Standard reported in March, however, that Abu Hamza had received new plastic prosthetics after having been extradited to the US. The newspaper predicted that the taxpayer-funded prosthetics cost upwards of $15,000.