NEW YORK — A jury was chosen Monday for the federal trial of an Egyptian Islamic preacher extradited from Great Britain on charges he conspired to support al-Qaida, setting the stage for the second major terrorism trial in Manhattan in two months.
Eight men and four women will hear evidence in the government’s case against Mustafa Kamel Mustafa after opening statements Thursday. The trial comes weeks after a jury convicted Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law Sulaiman Abu Ghaith of charges stemming from his role as al-Qaida’s spokesman after the Sept. 11 attacks. He likely faces a life sentence.
The 55-year-old Mustafa also will face a life sentence if he is convicted of conspiring to support al-Qaida by trying in 1999 to set up a terrorist training camp in Bly, Ore., by arranging for others to attend an al-Qaida training camp in Afghanistan and by ensuring there was satellite phone service for hostage-takers in Yemen in 1998 who abducted two American tourists and 14 others. Four hostages were killed.
Mustafa plans to testify at his trial. He said at a pretrial hearing last week: “I think I am innocent. I need to go through it, have a chance to defend myself.”
U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest handed prosecutors an early victory Monday, saying she will allow a British man to testify via videotape from London about his role in a shoe-bomb plot after the 2001 attacks. He refused to travel to the U.S. because he has been indicted in Boston on charges related to the plot and would likely be arrested.
The judge had Mustafa stand Monday as she told prospective jurors that his arms have been amputated and asked if anything about his physical appearance would affect their fairness. Mustafa has one eye and claims to have lost his hands fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan. He had a prosthetic arm in court that allows him to write.
The white-haired Mustafa, also known as Abu Hamza al-Masri, turned London’s Finsbury Park Mosque in the 1990s into a training ground for Islamic extremists, attracting men including Sept. 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui and shoe bomber Richard Reid.
Jailed since 2004 in Britain on separate charges of inciting racial hatred and encouraging followers to kill non-Muslims, Mustafa was brought to the United States for trial in fall 2012.