LONDON -- A prosecutor accused Abu Hamza al-Masri, an Egyptian-born Muslim cleric, yesterday of preaching murder and hatred, telling followers that the world should be run by a Muslim caliphate "sitting in the White House" and that it was legitimate to kill foes of Islamic law.
One day after jury selection, al-Masri's high-profile trial got under way in London's Old Bailey Criminal Court, where he stood accused on 15 counts of conspiracy to murder and using threatening, abusive and insulting language and behavior in incitement to religious hatred.
He also is charged with possessing material and documents relating to terrorist activities. The trial is expected to last four weeks.
A large man who lost one eye and both hands in what he says was fighting in Afghanistan against Soviet occupation, al-Masri became well-known as the radical preacher at North London's Finsbury Park Mosque.
The press and public galleries at the Old Bailey were packed as prosecutor David Perry told jurors that instead of preaching tolerance and understanding, al-Masri preached hatred, particularly against Jews.
Tapes seized after al-Masri's arrest in the summer of 2004 reveal the defendant accusing Jews of being "blasphemous, traitors and dirty. It's because of their filth that Hitler was sent into the world to torture and humiliate Jews," Perry told the court.
The court, presided over by Judge Anthony Hughes, heard that when al-Masri was arrested, police searches of his West London home and another London address netted 2,700 audiotapes and 570 videotapes.
The material amounted to a "blueprint" for how life should be lived according to al-Masri, Perry said.
The overriding theme, he said, was the "obligation to jihad" which justified, according to al-Masri, killing unbelievers and enemies of Islam.