NY defense lawyers seek leniency for London cleric

AP News
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Posted: Jan 02, 2015 6:14 PM

NEW YORK (AP) — An Islamic cleric convicted of terrorism charges should be sent to a prison medical facility because of severe disabilities instead of spending life in prison at a high-security federal prison in Colorado, according to his lawyers.

Attorneys for Mustafa Kamel Mustafa claim that by sentencing him to life at the Colorado prison, the United States would be reneging on assurances to judges in the United Kingdom regarding the Egyptian man, who lived in London.

Federal prosecutors disputed that assertion on Friday.

Mustafa, 56, was convicted in May of aiding terrorists who kidnapped tourists in Yemen in 1998 and others who plotted to open a terror training camp in Bly, Oregon. Federal sentencing guidelines call for a life sentence.

In court papers last week, Mustafa's attorneys said he would face unconstitutional cruel and unusual punishment if his amputated forearms, psoriasis, diabetes and high blood pressure weren't taken into account at his Jan. 9 sentencing in Manhattan federal court. They recommended a prison term less than life.

They told U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest that housing Mustafa at Colorado's Supermax federal prison, sometimes referred to as the "Alcatraz of the Rockies," would violate assurances the United States made to British judges to secure his 2012 extradition to America.

While acknowledging that their client had been convicted of participating in "terrible crimes," defense lawyers said Mustafa's failure to successfully challenge extradition to the United States while incarcerated in England from 2004 to 2012 was "directly attributable to sworn statements, concessions and promises made by the United States government during those extradition proceedings.

Prosecutors responded in court papers Friday that the government never promised the United Kingdom that Mustafa, also known as Abu Hamza al-Masri, would not be assigned to Supermax.

Prosecutors also insisted life in prison was the only appropriate sentence, saying Mustafa "waged a global war of jihad against those that he considered infidels. He sent men to American soil to learn how to fight and kill in support of that war."

They also submitted a letter Friday from Jeffery D. Allen, chief of health programs for the Federal Bureau of Prisons, in which he described in detail the process by which inmates are designated to prison facilities.

Allen wrote that Mustafa will be given a full medical evaluation at a medical center and assessed by a prosthetic specialist after he is sentenced.

He said if Mustafa is designated to Supermax, there are special cells for those with disabilities and 54 employees in the health services department, including three physicians, five physician assistants, four nurses and other health care employees. He said the prison sometimes contracts with community specialists to evaluate and treat inmates.

He said if Supermax would not address Mustafa's health needs, he would be moved to a prison medical care facility.

Defense lawyers told the judge Mustafa is unable to accomplish routine daily living tasks at the federal lockup in Manhattan where he is currently housed, and a continuation of those conditions with his insufficient prosthetic devices puts him at significant risk of infection and amputation.