A radical Muslim cleric whose sermons influenced shoe bomber Richard Reid in his attempt to blow up a U.S. jetliner pleaded not guilty to various terrorism charges during his first appearance in a New York courtroom Tuesday after being extradited from Britain.
Mustafa Kamel Mustafa, a naturalized British citizen who is better known by the alias Abu Hamza Masri, appeared in federal court in Lower Manhattan under tight security and without the sharp metal hook he wears in place of a right hand that was lost, along with his left hand, in combat in Afghanistan.
Since Mustafa's arrival in the United States over the weekend, his attorneys have said Mustafa needs his prosthetic, but prison officials have expressed doubts that a man who openly praised the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks would be allowed to wear a sharp-edged, metal hook while in custody.
"He's having a hard time. He doesn't have hands," Mustafa's attorney, Jeremy Schneider, told reporters outside court, the Associated Press reported. Schneider said he believed that his client, who is also blind, had use of the hook for part of the day "but not long enough to allow him to function the way he should function."
Mustafa, 54, faces charges that include orchestrating the abduction of 16 hostages, including two Americans, in Yemen in 1998; conspiring to set up a terrorist training camp in Oregon in 1999 and 2000; and providing material and other support to anti-U.S. militants. He faces life in prison if convicted.
The Egyptian-born cleric was one of five alleged anti-U.S. terrorists who arrived in the United States on Saturday after a British appellate court rejected their efforts to avoid extradition. The four others have also pleaded not guilty to various terrorism charges that range from providing material support to Al Qaeda to helping orchestrate the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.
Mustafa is the best known of the group because of the notoriety he gained during his years preaching at London's Finsbury Park Mosque, where he railed against the West and urged Muslims to embrace jihad.
One of his followers was Reid. Reid, a British citizen and admitted Al Qaeda member, wore explosives-packed sneakers onto an American Airlines jet flying from Paris to Miami in December 2001 in a botched attempt to blow it up.
Mustafa's trial date was set for Aug. 26.