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On Witness Stand, Muslim Cleric Mustafa Kamel Mustafa Denies Supporting Terrorism

Mustafa Kamel Mustafa, also known as Abu Hamza al-Masri (file/credit: Getty Images)

Mustafa Kamel Mustafa, also known as Abu Hamza al-Masri (file/credit: Getty Images)

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — An Egyptian cleric known for his incendiary rhetoric at a London mosque denied on the witness stand Wednesday that he supported terrorism.

Mustafa Kamel Mustafa testified in his own defense in Manhattan shortly after the government rested in the three-week-old trial. Mustafa — who also is known by the aliases Abu Hamza and Abu Hamza al-Masri — has pleaded not guilty to charges he conspired to support Yemeni kidnappers in 1998 and tried to organize an al Qaeda training camp outside Bly, Ore.

As WCBS 880’s Irene Cornell reported, the defendant flatly denied the terrorism charges against him Wednesday afternoon.

He insisted he did not participate in the kidnapping of tourists in Yemen, and said he did not know of the kidnapping plot in advance.

He also denied sending anyone to Bly, Ore. to set up a training camp for jihad in his testimony, Cornell reported.

The jury has heard testimony from witnesses who swore that the Egyptian-born London cleric did all of those things, but Mustafa was steadfast in denying the charges, Cornell reported.

“I’m no stranger to prison. If my freedom comes at the expense of my dignity and my beliefs, then I don’t want it,” Mustafa said from the witness stand.

Earlier Wednesday, a New Zealand woman told jurors a harrowing story about being kidnapped in Yemen, then being forced to stand side by side with other hostages as their abductors used them as human shields during a gunfight with Yemeni soldiers.

Mary Quin testified that four of the five tour vehicles in her convoy were ambushed by heavily armed men. One of the vehicles escaped and was able to alert the Yemeni military.

Soldiers arrived the next day and launched a rescue effort that involved a two-hour gun battle, with the Yemeni militants forcing the 16 tourists to stand on a low wall as they fired back at the army from between the hostages’ legs. Four of the tourists were killed.

“The bullets were zinging by my head,” Quin told the jury. “Just like in the movies.”

Quin managed to escape after one kidnapper was shot. She was rescued by the military.

She later traveled to London, tracked down Mustafa and questioned him about the kidnapping.

He told Quin he was surprised that she had come there, she said. Mustafa admitted to her that he spoke to the lead kidnapper by satellite phone during the abduction, which he said was a good thing, according to Quin’s testimony. He told Quin she and the others were snatched so they could be exchanged for prisoners, the witness testified.

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