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Hamza jury mulls race hate charges

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London
Abu Hamza al-Masri
Crime, Law and Justice

LONDON, England -- Jurors at the trial of radical cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri have started to consider their verdict on charges of inciting murder of Jews and other non-Muslims and fomenting racial hatred.

The Egyptian-born cleric, 47, faces a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted. He has pleaded not guilty.

Prosecutors at the Central Criminal Court in central London, known as the Old Bailey, have played the jury recordings of sermons by al-Masri, the former imam at London's Finsbury Park mosque and Britain's best-known Islamist orator, in which they allege he sought to stir up racial hatred.

Edward Fitzgerald, al-Masri's defense lawyer, told the jury that although some of what the preacher had said was offensive and "a bit over the top," he was not "intending to incite anybody to do anything specific."

He said the case against al-Masri, who has no hands and only one eye, was a "rag bag" of allegations.

Directing the jury to retire to consider verdicts, Judge Anthony Hughes summarized parts of al-Masri's defense.

"He denies that at any stage did he encourage his listeners to kill anybody or murder anybody," Hughes said, according to The Associated Press.

"He told you that he stood by every ideology set out in these speeches. He explained to you the job of the scholar was to understand current events and apply the appropriate Quaranic law, which can never change."

Al-Masri, from west London, faces nine charges under the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 alleging he solicited others at public meetings to murder Jews and other non-Muslims.

He also faces four charges under the Public Order Act of 1986 of "using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behavior with the intention of stirring up racial hatred."

Hamza also faces one charge of possessing threatening, abusive or insulting sound recordings, and another charge under anti-terrorism laws.

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