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Radical Islamist Abu Hamza al-Masri pleads not guilty

From Richard Roth and Olivia Smith, CNN
October 9, 2012 -- Updated 2107 GMT (0507 HKT)
  • NEW: The suspect doesn't have full-time access to his prosthetics, his lawyer says
  • Abu Hamza al-Masri faces 11 terrorism-related charges
  • He is among five men extradited to the U.S. after losing a legal battle in London
  • Al-Masri is one of the highest-profile radical Islamic figures in Britain

New York (CNN) -- Radical Muslim cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri, who once called al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden a "hero," pleaded not guilty Tuesday on 11 counts of terrorism.

U.S. District Judge Katherine B. Forrest set a trial date of August 26, 2013, after attorney Jeremy Schneider entered al-Masri's not guilty plea. Forrest asked al-Masri if the not guilty plea was true, and the suspect said in a soft voice: "It is."

The hearing came after al-Masri lost a lengthy legal battle to avoid extradition to the United States from London.

A one-eyed radical preacher, al-Masri is one of five men who departed England late Friday, hours after the High Court in London ruled the men could be extradited.

Two of the other men, Khaled al-Fawwaz and Adel Abdul Bary, pleaded not guilty on Saturday in New York, while the other two -- Babar Ahmad and Talha Ahsan -- also pleaded not guilty Saturday in New Haven, Connecticut.

The charges against al-Masri include conspiracy in connection with a 1998 kidnapping of 16 Westerners in Yemen, and conspiring with others to establish an Islamic jihad training camp in rural Oregon in 1999. If convicted, he could be sentenced to life in prison.

The cases of Ahmad and Ahsan are both linked to a website called, which U.S. prosecutors say was run by the two men to support terrorism around the world.

Al-Fawwaz and Bary are accused of being al Qaeda associates of bin Laden in London during the 1990s.

Al-Masri was one of the highest-profile radical Islamic figures in Britain, where he was already sentenced to seven years for inciting racial hatred at his north London mosque and other terrorism-related charges.

Born in Egypt in 1958, he traveled to Britain to study before gaining citizenship through marriage in the 1980s.

A one-time nightclub bouncer in London's Soho district, al-Masri -- also known as Mustafa Kamal Mustafa -- has said he lost both hands and one eye while fighting against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. He often wears a hook in place of one hand.

Schneider told reporters Tuesday that al-Masri wasn't getting full-time access to his prosthetics since coming to the United States.

"As you can well imagine he's not happy that he's in a situation like this without his use of his prosthetics," Schneider said, adding "I believe he has use of his prosthetics for a certain portion of the day but not long enough to allow him to function the way he should function so he can help me do what I have to do."

In 1997, al-Masri became the imam of a north London mosque, where his hate-filled speeches attacking the West began to attract national attention and followers. One of those followers was Reid, the so-called "shoe bomber" who attempted to blow up a Miami-bound passenger airplane three months after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Al-Masri has called the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center "a towering day in history" and described bin Laden as "a good guy and a hero."

He also described the Columbia space shuttle disaster in 2003 as "punishment from Allah" because the astronauts were Christian, Hindu and Jewish.

Lawyers for al-Masri told the British court their client suffers from deteriorating mental health and was unfit to plead.

CNN's Susan Candiotti contributed to this report.

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