Abu Hamza: From Nightclub Bouncer To 'Radical Cleric'

Abu Hamza: From Nightclub Bouncer To 'Radical Cleric'

Muslim cleric Abu Hamza once appeared to embrace Western society.

He worked as a bouncer in a Soho nightclub and had a reputation for socialising and heavy drinking when he came to Britain from Egypt 28 years ago.

The 53-year-old, born in Alexandria, studied civil engineering and in 1984 married a British woman, Valerie Fleming.

But throughout the 1980s he slowly began to turn towards a fundamentalist interpretation of the Koran.

In February 2006 Hamza was jailed in the UK for seven years for soliciting murder and inciting racial hatred.

He is being held in the maximum-security Belmarsh prison in Woolwich, south-east London.

It has been suggested that racial abuse of his son turned him into a critic of Western life.

In 1990 he divorced his wife and returned to Egypt where he reinvented himself as a Muslim "holy man" or sheikh. He travelled to Pakistan and then on to Afghanistan which was at the time gripped by civil war as differing factions fought to fill the power vacuum left by the retreat of Russian troops.

It is unclear if he fought there but when he returned to the UK with his British passport in the early 1990s he was missing his right hand and an eye. He claims he lost the hand fighting jihad in Afghanistan.

In 1996 he re-emerged at Finsbury Park Mosque in north London preaching jihad to a young congregation.

Then in January 1999 three British tourists were killed in Yemen, drawing public attention to the civil war between fundamentalists and the secular government there, which accused Abu Hamza of using his mosque to recruit Islamic warriors to the fundamentalist cause.

He was alleged to have been the leader of a cell called Supporters of Sharia and was accused of sending his son, Mustafa Kamel, to Yemen where he and five other British Muslims were convicted on terrorist charges. Yemen said that it wanted him extradited.

But Hamza continued to court controversy. Following the 11 September attacks in the US, he said: "Many people will be happy, jumping up and down at this moment."

From his prison cell he has fought extradition, claiming the prospect of solitary confinement in one of the US's "supermax" high-security jails and sentences of life imprisonment without parole would breach a European ban on "torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment".

But human rights judges ruled in April this year that there would be no violation of the European Human Rights Convention if the UK extradited the five to the US to face a range of terrorist charges.


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