Abu Hamza Sentenced to Life in Prison in Federal Court

New York City – On Friday, a U.S. federal judge in New York City sentenced Sheikh Abu Hamza al Masri to life in prison following his conviction on charges arising from the deadly 1998 kidnappings of 16 American, British, and Australian tourists in Yemen, and an attempt to start a terrorist training camp in Oregon in 2000. After a month-long trial involving a parade of government informants testifying against the London-based preacher, Abu Hamza was convicted in just 11 hours by a New York jury last May. It was the latest of many such convictions following orderly and efficient trials brought by U.S. attorneys before experienced federal judges in civilian U.S. courts on international terrorism charges.

“The sentencing of Abu Hamza al Masri affirms yet again that the U.S. federal court system is perfectly capable of handling complex international terrorism cases, and that such cases do not need to be sent to military commissions in Guantanamo Bay,” said Human Rights First’s Daphne Eviatar, who has followed the Abu Hamza case and trial.  “We’ve now seen hundreds of cases completed by the federal court system on U.S. soil since the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, yet key cases including the 9/11 case itself continue to languish at the convoluted commission system set up at Guantanamo. The victims of this suspension of justice are not only the relatives of those killed and injured in those attacks, but the United States’ reputation for justice itself.”

Human Rights First notes that federal courts have completed nearly 500 cases related to international terrorism since 9/11.  Of those, at least 67 cases have involved individuals captured overseas, according to Department of Justice data obtained by Human Rights First in a Freedom of Information Act request.

Meanwhile, military commissions have convicted only 8 individuals since 9/11, and convictions on charges in two of those cases have already been overturned on appeal.

For more information about prosecuting terrorism cases, please see Human Rights First’s fact sheets Federal Courts Continue to Take Lead in Counterterrorism Prosecutions and Myth v. Fact: Trying Terrorism Suspects in Federal Court.  For more information about Human Rights First’s plan for closing the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, please read the organization’s blueprint How to Close Guantanamo.


Published on January 9, 2015


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