Interesting information on ongoing relations between "Muslim fanatics" and British intelligence services
Britain: Why did it take so long to bring Abu Hamza to trial?
by Chris Marsden
Global Research, February 20, 2006
On February 7, the radical Islamist cleric Abu Hamza El-Masri was sentenced to seven years in prison on six charges of soliciting murder, 21 months on three counts of incitement to racial hatred, three years for possessing “threatening, abusive or insulting recordings,” and three and a half years for having a document useful to terrorists. He will remain at Belmarsh high-security prison, where he has been held since his arrest in 2004. Because of the time he has already served in custody, he will be eligible for parole in 2008.↑
Hamz conviction has raised a number of disturbing questions, centering on why it took so long to bring a case against him, given his central role in Islamic terrorist activities in Britain and internationally.
There is a wealth of evidence to suggest that Britain’s security services sheltered Hamza for many years and even worked with him. How long this relationship was maintained is uncertain. However, there is a record of meetings between Hamza and the police and secret services at least until 2000.
Additionally, there are reports that his organisation, Al-Muhajiroun, and Finsbury Park mosque, where he preached, were heavily infiltrated by agents and informers. Some allege that the state placed its agents at the very top of Al-Muhajiroun.
Media commentators have suggested that Hamza was allowed considerable free rein because the Finsbury Park mosque became a centre of terrorist activity, and this enabled MI5 and MI6 to keep track of what was happening. Even if this is all that was involved, it would be necessary to ask how much was known by Britain of planned terrorist atrocities?the July 7 bombings in London, in particular?and whether they were allowed to go ahead by the security services.
It cannot be ruled out that, given the possibility of high-level penetration, an even more direct role was played by Britain’s spies.
Amongst those who attended Finsbury Park mosque were shoe bomber Richard Reid; Omar Sharif, who was involved in a suicide attack in Tel Aviv; Jerome Courtailler, arrested in Holland for allegedly plotting to blow up the US embassy in Paris; Djamel Beghal, another alleged suspect behind the plot to bomb the US embassy in Paris; and Zacarias Moussaoui, the only man charged in the US in connection with 9/11 after pleading guilty to conspiracy?and who was also initially sheltered from prosecution, this time by Washington.
What was revealed at the trial would by itself raise suspicions over Britain’s extraordinarily hands-off approach to Hamza.
Most of the evidence on which he was convicted – including his possession of the Encyclopaedia of Afghani Jihad, which contained a dedication to Osama Bin Laden, film of his provocative speeches and the arsenal of weapons found at the mosque, was known for years. Yet previously, the government and the Crown Prosecution Service had insisted there was not enough evidence against Hamza for a successful prosecution.
It was revealed that a police raid on Finsbury Park mosque on January 20, 2003, found chemical warfare protection suits, pistols, CS spray, a stun gun, a gas mask, handcuffs, hunting knives, more then 100 stolen or forged passports and identity documents, credit cards, laminating equipment and chequebooks hidden under rugs. The police insisted that there was enough evidence to prosecute, but the Crown Prosecution Service disagreed.
Requests for Hamz extradition to the United States, Egypt and the Yemen on terrorist-related charges had all been denied.
The court was told that Hamza met with British secret services seven times between 1997 and 2000. He also met French security services and Special Branch officers at Scotland Yard. The dates and details were given in admissions to the court.
During the trial, Hamza gave testimony that he had ?numerous discussions? with police and MI5, and that three videotapes the police were using as evidence in his trial had been in their possession since the late 1990s. Special Branch “said I didn’t have to worry as long as they didn’t see blood in the streets,” he stated.
He also testified that he had been watched by MI5: “They told me they are watching so many groups, there was no suggestion I was singled out.”
It was, he added, only in the later stages of his interviews with the security service, between 1997 and 2000, that he was told he was “walking a tightrope.” His interviews with Special Branch were relaxed, he said, with one officer smiling and walking him to his car.
On August 8, the BBC reported that Abu Hamz lawyer had provided papers relating to some of the MI5 and Special Branch interviews with the cleric in the late 1990s. The BBC stated, “The papers show the extent of the contacts the authorities had. His lawyer says that is why he thought he was doing nothing illegal.
“BBC Home Affairs Correspondent Margaret Gilmore said: “If you look at those transcripts, you will see what a close relationship Abu Hamza had with MI5. Whether they admit it or not, you could be forgiven for getting the impression there was an unspoken understanding that as long as they kept tabs on him, he was allowed to be able to do as he pleased.” ?
A history of relations with the security forces
Between 1986 and 1989, Hamza had studied civil engineering at Brighton Polytechnic and had a job on a construction project at Sandhurst military academy. Hamza had already met Abdullah Azzam, the leader of the Mujahideen in Afghanistan, and been invited to join. Incredibly, the Sandhurst plans had been seized at the time of his earlier arrest in 1999, but were subsequently returned to him after no charges were laid.
Police also viewed 725 tapes they seized, of a similar nature to those that have now resulted in his conviction.
This is only the tip of the iceberg. Given the information that can be gleaned from a number of public sources, the trial itself is notable for its failure to probe the full extent of Hamz activities.
In his early career, Hamza certainly enjoyed the patronage of Britain. Some security experts have argued that Al-Muhajiroun was a creation of MI6. Hamza was involved with the Mujehaddin in Afghanistan, a military campaign that was carried out with the active support of the CIA and MI6. It is likely that he was first approached here by the British. By the time of the conflict in Kosovo, according to several reports, Al-Muhajiroun was given backing, including military training, by Britain, so that it could act as a proxy military force and ally of the CIA-backed Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA).
According to the Canadian journalist Michel Chossudovsky, US, British and German intelligence were involved in training the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) in 1998-1999, and Mujahideen mercenaries from the Middle East and Central Asia were recruited to fight in its ranks.
Chossudovsky cites a report in the Scotsman of August 29, 1999, explaining that the US Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) approached MI6 to arrange a training programme for the KLA:
“MI6 then sub-contracted the operation to two British security companies, who in turn approached a number of former members of the [22 SAS] regiment. Lists were then drawn up of weapons and equipment needed by the KLA.”
Details of how this operation involved Hamza and Al-Muhajiroun are provided in a report by the Observer, published February 12, 2006.
The newspaper states: “Former British soldiers taught Abu Hamz followers to use guns at a camp in Wales as part of an ad hoc terror training network set up by the jailed cleric, according to US intelligence agencies.
“But the British security services were either unconcerned or ignorant about Hamz activities, despite warnings that he was considered a risk from foreign governments and intelligence agencies as early as 1995.
“Evidence collected by the American agencies shows that, as early as 1997, Hamza was organising terror camps in the Brecon Beacons, at an old monastery in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, and in Scotland, suggesting that he ran a far more extensive training network than has been officially acknowledged until now.
“Transcripts of interviews conducted with suspected al-Qaeda terrorists held by America in Guant