Omar Bakri: Banned cleric barred from rescue ship
July 21, 2006
Staff and Agencies
ReligionNewsBlog.com • Saturday July 22, 2006
The Muslim cleric, who left Britain for Lebanon abruptly in August last year, tried to board the British ship yesterday. He also claimed he had written to the British embassy asking to be allowed to back on “humanitarian grounds”.
Mr Bakri, who founded the now-disbanded radical Islamic group al-Muhajiroun during his 20 years in Britain, was barred from the country for good by the then home secretary, Charles Clarke, days after he left.
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Mr Bakri said today he was refused a place on the Royal Navy ship because he did not have a British passport.
He insisted he was only appealing for help on behalf of his family and stressed: “I have never been charged or sentenced in Britain.”
Speaking to the BBC Radio 4 Today programme by mobile phone from Beirut, Mr Bakri said: “I am not appealing now against the decision to give me the right to stay in Britain. I am not appealing for that.
“I am appealing on behalf of my children who are worried and they want to see their own father. Do you want my little sons or my little family to come now to Lebanon? I don’t think you want that.”
Mr Bakri was born in Syria and is believed to hold joint Syrian and Lebanese citizenship. He was granted political asylum in the UK in the 1980s because of his involvement with Islamist groups opposed to the secular government of Syrian leader Hafez al-Assad, the father of Syria’s current president.
Mr Bakri had praised the September 11 attackers and called for Britain to become an Islamist state, and is regarded as the spiritual leader of Al-Ghurabaa, the organisation responsible for February’s Danish embassy protests against cartoons of Mohammed.
He voluntarily left Britain last August days after the Home Office announced it was looking at using treason charges to prosecute him over inflammatory comments made by his Islamist group al-Muhajiroun.
Two of Mr Bakri’s associates also mentioned in connection with the treason investigation, Abu Uzair and Abu Izzadeen, were not prosecuted and are still living freely in Britain. But Mr Bakri’s departure allowed the home secretary, Charles Clarke, to revoke his indefinite leave to remain in the UK.
Foreign office minister Lord Triesman, who is in Cyprus to observe the arrival of evacuated Britons, told BCC Radio Five Live he thought Mr Mohammed was trying to gain publicity.
“The decision was taken by the home secretary that his presence in the United Kingdom was not conducive given his attitudes and given the way he’s spoken of this country, the United Kingdom. It was not conducive for the well being of the country.
“We’ve got about 30 immigration officers from the Home Office processing people who’ve got legitimate visas and no doubt they will be taking appropriate decisions but so far as I’m aware, he’s made no application whatever to us to come in any case. It’s a bit of theatre to be candid with you.”
Mr Bakri’s former student Anjem Choudhary, a former leader of Al-Muhajiroun, said that a letter Mr Bakri had written to the British embassy had gone unanswered and that there was “no harm” in the application.
“He has written to the British Embassy, asking either for a temporary visa to come over until the situation returns to normality, or to seek permission to go to Cyprus and maybe be reunited with his family there,” he said, adding that Mr Bakri had a wife and six children still living in the UK.
“As a fellow Muslim, I think he has the right on humanitarian grounds to leave Lebanon – after all, he lived here for 20 years.
“He left on his own accord, there is no reason why he should not be allowed to return. He was not deported or extradited. He has never committed any offences in this country.”
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