THE family of a Scottish woman killed by terrorists in Yemen 16 years ago have raised questions over why radical Islamic preacher Abu Hamza could not be tried in the UK as a US judge sentenced him to life in prison.
Hamza was sentenced for plots to kidnap tourists in Yemen in 1998 and build a terrorist training camp in Oregon.
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Donald Main, the uncle of Ruth Williamson, 34, who was among a group of 16 tourists caught up in a hostage taking in Yemen in December 1998 that ended in a bloodbath, said that British detectives had all of the evidence which led to the conviction of the cleric in the US.
Ms Williamson, an NHS worker, was shot dead along with two other Britons and an Australian when they were used as human shields by the kidnappers.
Hamza, 56, the radical Islamic preacher who was running Finsbury Park mosque in north London at the time and provided a satellite phone and £500 for call money to aid the hostage takers in Yemen, was yesterday given a life sentence for terrorism charges in an US court.
Mr Main said: “My niece Ruth Williamson, a much-loved member of our family, was one of the victims of the 1998 murder of tourists in Yemen. Ruth was a lively, very intelligent young woman and also a talented artist.
“My understanding is that British police possessed all the evidence that resulted in the decision announced today in the US. I have never understood why this judgment could not have been made many years ago by a UK court, thus avoiding the long, very costly legal battles seeking to avoid extradition to the USA.”
Hamza was sentenced in Manhattan after his conviction last May. He was extradited from Great Britain to face the charges.The government said he earned life in prison by helping terrorists around the globe. Four tourists were killed in the 1998 Yemen kidnapping.
His lawyers had urged US District Judge Katherine Forrest to take into account that their client will have a particularly hard time in prison because he is missing hands and forearms and has other ailments.
They also say US authorities promised Great Britain when Hamza was extradited to the United States that he would not be housed at a maximum security facility in Florence, Colorado.
During his trial in May last year, jurors heard a tape in which Hamza – tried under the name Mustafa Kamel Mustafa – said: “Everybody was happy when the planes hit the World Trade Centre.”
Hamza led the Finsbury Park Mosque in the 1990s, reportedly attended by both 11 September conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui and shoe bomber Richard Reid, though the cleric denied ever having met them.
The mosque has been linked to this week’s attacks in France, with reports Charlie Hebdo massacre suspect Cherif Kouachi – shot dead after taking a man hostage last night – was a follower of convicted terrorist and mosque regular Djamel Beghal.
Hamza later spread violent messages there following the attacks of 11 September 2001.
Hamza was jailed in the UK for seven years for soliciting murder and inciting racial hatred in 2006 and first faced an extradition request from the Americans in 2004.
Last night, UK Home Secretary Theresa May said: “I am pleased that Abu Hamza has finally faced justice. He used every opportunity, over many years, to frustrate and delay the extradition process.
“His conviction was facilitated by this government’s tireless work to successfully remove him from the UK to face trial.
“His sentence reflects the severity of his crimes and I am pleased he will spend the rest of his life behind bars where he belongs.”
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