LONDON (NYT) — The conviction of a radical British Muslim cleric in New York this week drew praise from the British prime minister and home secretary on Tuesday, but some Muslims in the London neighborhood where the cleric once preached said they were troubled by his prosecution.
The cleric, Mostafa Kamel Mostafa, 56, known as Abu Hamza al-Masri, was convicted on numerous terrorism charges on Monday, two years after he lost a lengthy battle against extradition from Britain.
Prime Minister David Cameron said it was “good that he has faced justice” but lamented that it took years to extradite Mr. Mostafa, who was first arrested in London in 2004 on a warrant from the United States but successfully appealed extradition numerous times.
The British government “should reflect on whether we can extradite faster,” including moving through the appeals process more quickly, Mr. Cameron told the BBC on Tuesday. Home Secretary Theresa May said in a statement that the government had struggled to extradite Mr. Mostafa because he “used every opportunity, over many years, to frustrate and delay the extradition process.”
Click on post title to read more on Mr. Mostafa and other creeps…especially if you think Muslim immigration to the West is nifty idea…
Mr. Mostafa is remembered here for his fiery sermons, highly critical of the West, at the Finsbury Park Mosque in North London. In his years at the mosque, where he became the imam in 1997, it became a recruiting office and way station for young European Muslims who wished to go to Afghanistan to fight or to enter training camps for Al Qaeda.
Mourad Benkadour, a neighborhood butcher, said he did not know Mr. Mostafa but criticized his extradition. “I don’t support him, but I think he should be treated as a human being, with respect,” he said. Asked about the charges of terrorism, he said: “We’re very tired of this word. This kind of trial is not new for us. Terrorism is a word used only against Muslims.”
The mosque was attended by Zacarias Moussaoui, the Sept. 11 conspirator, and Richard C. Reid, the so-called shoe bomber, although Mr. Mostafa denied having ever met them. He was arrested in 2004 and imprisoned here for seven years for inciting murder and racial hatred, then extradited in 2012.
At the Finsbury Park Mosque on Tuesday, Mohammed Kozbar, the director, declined to comment on the conviction and said he had never met Mr. Mostafa. “We should draw a line on that period and start a new era,” Mr. Kozbar said. “What we can say is that what’s going on at Finsbury Park Mosque is quite a different story than before. We decided to start a new era of community relations, of cohesion.” He said the mosque now participated in the Islington Faiths Forum, which is open to all religions.
The mosque was reopened under new leadership, with new rules, in 2005, Mr. Kozbar said. “We don’t allow political issues to take place here,” he said, adding that all those who wish to address the congregation must have permission.
An Algerian-born owner of a sandwich shop, requesting anonymity, said he was apolitical but had no faith in American justice. “Never trust America,” he said.
But other Muslims said that they welcomed the conviction, and that prosecutors must have had substantial grounds. “I think he got what he deserved, to be honest,” said one Britain-born Muslim who runs a grocery store and spoke on the condition of anonymity. “I think a lot of people think that way.”
Some critics have said Britain took too long to deal with the threat presented by radical preachers like Mr. Mostafa and Omar Mahmoud Othman, known as Abu Qatada, who was deported to Jordan last year after many appeals and delays to face terrorism charges.
Mr. Mostafa said in his defense that he had been working with the British equivalent of the F.B.I., MI5, to “keep the streets of London safe,” but there has been no official confirmation of his claim.
Separately on Tuesday, a court convicted a British man, Mashudur Choudhury, 31, of terrorism-related offenses after he traveled to Syria with the intention of joining the conflict there. Mr. Choudhury, a married father of two from the Portsmouth area, went to Syria in October and was arrested at Gatwick Airport upon his return to Britain.
He said he had gone to escape from family problems; the prosecution argued that he went with the intention of fighting for radical Islam. “The training was to include the use of firearms and the purpose of fighting was to pursue a political, religious or ideological cause,” the prosecutor, Alison Morgan, told the jury.
A text message from his wife, introduced in evidence, indicated marital tension. “Go die in battlefield,” she wrote. “Go die. I really mean it; just go. I’ll be relieved. At last. At last.”
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The wife is maybe or maybe not a fan of terrorists. Maybe she just can’t stand him anymore.