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Abu Hamza appears to have lived a 'troubled' life

Oct. 05, 2012 @ 12:00 AM

I try not to prejudge people, especially those I do not know, but from what I have heard, Abu Hamza al-Masri is not someone I would like to meet.

He was born in Egypt and, in 1979, moved to Britain as a student to study civil engineering. He appeared to like his new country at first, met a Catholic girl who converted to his religion and married her. After being married for three years he applied for British citizenship and was granted it, but a year later he divorced his wife and kept their only child.

By 1990 he was living in eastern Europe, where he fought in the Bosnian War. Later he moved to Afghanistan to fight against the Russian occupation of that country. While he was there, he lost both hands and one eye in a land mine explosion.

In 1999, it is alleged, he sent his son and stepson to Yemen to carry out terrorist attacks. The two young men were arrested after a foiled bomb plot and sent to prison. By this time, Abu Hamza, as the British press call him, was the Imam of Finsbury Park Mosque in northeast London and was a leader of a group called "The Supporters of Sharia," which believes in the strict adherence to Islamic law. He began to proclaim his beliefs to anyone who would listen and in 2003 spoke at a public rally that was very racist and anti-western. He had already been suspended as Imam because of his inflammatory speeches and in 2003 was dismissed from his post by the British Charities Commission, the government department that controls charitable institutions. Being banned from the mosque, he began preaching his bigotry outside its walls until his arrest by the police in 2004.

Abu Hamza was detained under section 41 of the Terrorism Act and was charged with 15 offenses, ranging from soliciting murder to stirring up racial hatred. In 2006, he was found guilty of 11 of the 15 and was sentenced to seven years in prison.

Normally he would have been released several years ago and, even without parole, should have been freed last year, but as I write this he is still being held in Belmarsh Prison in London because the United States has applied to extradite him. U.S. authorities want to charge the cleric on 11 counts that include seizing hostages, trying to establish a terrorist training camp in Oregon, providing financial and other aid to al-Qaeda and establishing a web site that promoted world- wide Holy War.

The extradition case has been going on for several years as Abu Hamza appealed to the European Court of Human Rights. His plea was based on the fact that Britain had signed a European agreement that states extradition must be refused to any country that has the death penalty and where the suspect is to be tried on a capital charge. On Sept. 24, 2012, the court finally ruled that he can be extradited to the United States, however, so I guess we can expect to see him appearing on our news programs and in our papers in the next few months.

It would appear that Britain has passed a man who caused problems on to the United States, but Abu Hamza has inadvertently left behind a legacy that may cause repercussions for some time to come.

Britain's form of government is a Constitutional Monarchy. That is to say, although there is a Monarchy, the King or Queen is not allowed to take part in, or to influence any government policy. A BBC correspondent has now mistakenly revealed that in a private conversation with Queen Elizabeth she said she had contacted the government department responsible to question why Abu Hamza had not been arrested previously. This is a clear breach of the non-interference policy, even though Buckingham Palace insists she was not trying to influence the government.

Those with republican leanings in Britain have seized on this to raise questions on the Royal family's real influence on government decisions and are questioning why the British government is resisting a request under the Freedom of Information Act to publish secret instructions that say government officials must ask approval from Prince Charles and the Queen for certain new laws.

The argument has revealed that Prince Charles at least has been sending notes to government officials for some time and a tribunal has just ordered that these be published, a decision that is still being fought in the courts. The head of a group which pursues the abolition of the monarchy and establishment of a republic said "The idea that the monarchy is politically neutral and harmless has been exposed as a hoax. Royal interference in British political life must be challenged." It seems to me that this is something that is going to grow before it goes away so while here in America we watch the trial of Abu Hamza al-Masri, back in Britain he will still be causing trouble.

Derek Coleman is a part-time writer who is a native of England and who now lives in Hurricane, W.Va. He can be reached at tallderek@hotmail.com.

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