Hook-handed terrorist suspect struggling: lawyers

Abu hamza

Prison officials are hampering the one-eyed, handless British Islamist preacher extradited to the United States on terrorism charges from participating in his defence ahead of trial, lawyers have said.

Mustafa Kamel Mustafa, better known in Britain as Abu Hamza Al-Masri, is already having day-to-day trouble in the high security wing of the Manhattan detention center where he is being held because of his reliance on crude metal hooks instead of proper prosthetic hands, his defence team said yesterday.

But even stricter rules imposed in the last two weeks are also preventing court-appointed attorneys and the Egyptian-born leader of a mosque in north London from going through the mountains of evidence, lawyer Joshua Dratel told aManhattan federal court.

"Mr Mustafa cannot participate in the process. He does not have a laptop. He cannot participate in the digital discovery (of evidence). We can't print out hundreds and thousands of pages," Dratel said, calling the new restrictions "a very, very serious problem."

Hamza has pleaded not guilty to 11 terrorism charges, including conspiring to set up an Al-Qaeda-style training camp in the United States. His trial is set to start August 26.

However, his lawyers said yesterday they had no idea how they could prepare in time.

"I need to address the 700 pound gorilla in the room about the schedule," another attorney on the team, Jeremy Schneider, told the court.

He said there were 47 boxes of evidence provided by the British authorities, including CDs with an unknown quantity of files, and that his team had been too busy even to begin looking at the documents.

"Even if we worked 23 hours a day from now until then we probably wouldn't get the work done," Schneider said.

Judge Katherine Forrest gave short shrift to the lawyers, saying they needed to come up with specific complaints.

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