Al-Masri pleads not guilty in US court

Muslim religious leader, recently extradited by Britain, denies providing material support to al-Qaeda.

A courtroom drawing shows Abu Hamza al-Masri, centre, in Manhattan federal court on Tuesday [Reuters]

Abu Hamza al-Masri has pleaded not guilty in a US federal court after Britain extradited him to the US last week to face trial and a potential life sentence on terrorism charges.

US District Court Judge Katherine Forrest in Manhattan set on Tuesday a trial date of August 26, 2013, for the Egyptian-born Muslim leader, who is missing both his hands and an eye, injuries he says he sustained during humanitarian work in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

Masri, 54, is accused of participating in a 1998 hostage-taking in Yemen that resulted in the deaths of three Britons and an Australian.

He is also charged with providing material support to the al-Qaeda network by trying to set up a training camp in Oregon and with attempting to organise support for the Taliban in Afghanistan.

He was flown late on Friday to the US along with four other men also wanted on US terrorism charges. Masri could face up to life in prison if convicted on the charges.

Masri had made an initial appearance in federal court in Saturday but did not enter a plea at that time.

At Tuesday’s hearing, he again appeared without his prosthetic, a signature metal hook, that he wears because of his missing forearms.

Masri lost his eight-year battle to avoid deportation on Friday after two London High Court judges refused to delay his departure.

The European Court of Human Rights refused to stop Britain from extraditing Masri and the four other men also wanted on US terrorism charges.

Under the terms of British and European court rulings authorising the extradition, the men must be tried in US civilian courts and federal prosecutors cannot seek the death penalty.

Source: News Agencies

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