Former hostage tells London imam's U.S. trial about escape in Yemen

Reuters News
Posted: May 07, 2014 2:52 PM

By Joseph Ax

NEW YORK (Reuters) - With her Yemeni captor lying on the sand with a gunshot wound, Mary Quin hesitated for only a few seconds.

She turned, grabbed the barrel of the AK-47 rifle that moments before had been jammed against her spine and stepped on the kidnapper's head, wresting the gun away before running toward her rescuers.

"I thought, 'This is a chance to make a run for it,'" she told jurors in New York on Wednesday at the terror trial of London imam Abu Hamza as-Masri.

Quin was part of a group of Western tourists taken hostage in 1998 by Yemeni militants; U.S. prosecutors accuse Abu Hamza of providing a satellite phone and advice to the kidnappers.

The operation ended with the deaths of four captives during a gun battle between the kidnappers and Yemeni military personnel.

His lawyers have argued that he intended to act as a mediator to help negotiate the hostages' release.

Prosecutors have introduced evidence that the kidnappers planned to trade the tourists for prisoners in Yemen, including Abu Hamza's son and stepson.

Quin is the final government witness; Abu Hamza is expected to testify in his own defense as soon as Wednesday afternoon.

Quin, a dual American-New Zealand citizen who at the time of the kidnapping was an executive with Xerox Corp, described how she later confronted Abu Hamza at a north London mosque for a book she wrote about her ordeal.

"He said, 'I'm surprised you would come here, very surprised,'" Quin said.

The jurors in Manhattan federal court heard excerpts from their conversation, which Quin recorded with Abu Hamza's permission.

"Islamically, it is a good thing to do," he said of the kidnapping.

He acknowledged that he had spoken with Abu Hassan, the leader of the Yemeni militants, on the day of the kidnapping. But he would not confirm that he had provided the group with the satellite phone, saying only, "Yeah, perhaps," when Quin asked him.

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Abu Hassan would eventually be executed for his role in the kidnapping.

Abu Hamza is also accused of trying to set up a militant training camp in Oregon and providing aid to al Qaeda in Afghanistan.

His lawyers have told jurors that he frequently used inflammatory language in his sermons but that he never crossed the line to criminal acts.

The imam served several years in a U.K. prison for inciting his followers to violence through his preaching before he was extradited to the United States. He faces life in prison if convicted in New York.

(Reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)