NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — An Islamic cleric accused of supporting terrorist operations in Yemen and in the United States became combative Tuesday when confronted with his past statements by a U.S. prosecutor.

Mustafa Kamel Mustafa was cross-examined by Assistant U.S. Attorney John Cronan in federal court in Manhattan, WCBS 880’s Irene Cornell reported. Also known by the aliases Abu Hamza and Abu Hamza al-Masri, Mustafa has pleaded not guilty to charges he conspired to support the kidnappers who abducted 16 tourists in Yemen 1998 and he tried to organize an al Qaeda training camp outside Bly, Ore.

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Repeatedly, the hook-handed cleric tried to deflect questions regarding the kidnappings and about his love of Osama bin Laden.

Four hostages died. A year later, one of the people who was abducted, Mary Quin, interviewed him at his London mosque while writing a book.

Mustafa conceded in court that he told her the attack was “Islamically justified.”

The prosecutor asked, “Did’t you tell her that the bombing of the USS Cole was a good thing, like the killing of four tourists?”

“You’re comparing figs with oranges,” protested Hamza. “You’re talking about innocent people passing by unaware. The USS Cole is a battleship.”

Cronan also pressed Mustafa about his remarks declaring bin Laden a “hero.”

“But a hero of the past,” the defendant tried to explain. “Everyone has good and bad in him.”

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“But you still love him,” challenged the prosecutor.

“Yes,” said Hamza. “He was an example of all Mujahideen for his past goals, his experience and example.”

Mustafa complained repeatedly the prosecutor was taking his statements out of context.

“You just cut and paste,” he said. “It is not good for justice.

“You are not after justice,” Mustafa said. You are after conviction.”

The judge told Mustafa to obey the rules and not to make speeches.

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