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US sentences Abu Hamza to life on terrorism charges

A US judge called infamous London imam's crimes "evil" and "barbaric", handing down two life sentences plus another 100 years in prison
Officers stand outside a US Federal Court for the Abu Hamza trial on 14 April 2014 in New York (AFP)

A US judge has sentenced London imam Abu Hamza al-Masri to life in prison for the deadly kidnapping of Western tourists in Yemen and terrorism, calling his crimes "evil" and "barbaric".

Judge Katherine Forrest sentenced him to life behind bars on Friday, eight months after he was convicted by a jury on 19 May after a four-week trial.

He was convicted on multiple charges, including plotting to set up a militant training camp in Oregon, and playing a leadership role in the 1998 kidnapping of 16 Western tourists in Yemen, four of whom were killed.

Born Mustafa Kamel Mustafa in Egypt, but known as Abu Hamza, the 56-year-old preached at Finsbury Park Mosque in London, making headlines for anti-American sermons that praised the 9/11 attackers.

"Evil comes in many forms but doesn't always show itself immediately in all its darkness," Forrest said. There is "a side of you that this court views as evil".

The judge also said Abu Hamza provided material support to Al-Qaeda, assisted the Taliban, sent terror recruits to Afghanistan, and perjured himself at trial.

She sentenced him to two life sentences over the Yemen kidnapping, and a combined total of 100 years on the nine other counts - all to be served concurrently.

Abu Hamza was arrested on terrorism charges in 2004 in the UK, where he was sentenced to seven years in jail in 2006 for inciting murder and racial hatred.

In 2012, he was extradited to the US after a lengthy judicial battle.

Blind in one eye and a double-hand amputee, Abu Hamza insisted he was innocent and demanded to be sent to a prison hospital. "With all honesty I do maintain my innocence," he said.

"After years of fighting extradition, Abu Hamza finally faced justice, as all those who engage in terrorism against innocent civilians must, here in the US, and all around the globe, as the terrible events in Paris remind us," said Manhattan attorney Preet Bharara.