Their expulsion comes as the British authorities attempt to deport to Beirut a number of Lebanese radicals who have been identified as a terrorism risk. Bakri fled to Beirut, fearing that he would be arrested in Britain as part of the Government’s promised crackdown on so-called preachers of hate.
Bakri claimed that he had flown to Lebanon on holiday in August but Charles Clarke, the Home Secretary, banned the cleric from returning to his London home. The four men rounded up in Beirut were there helping Bakri to set up a religious school and are allegedly members of his banned al-Ghuraba group. Anjem Choudray, the cleric’s deputy, blamed the Foreign and Commonwealth Office for orchestrating their deportations. Whitehall would not comment on the case.
Bakri’s followers say he cannot find work. The cleric has claimed an estimated £250,000 in state benefits since claiming asylum in Britain 20 years ago. He has complained about being followed. Mr Choudray described his deportation from Beirut as “outrageous”. He said that the Government is deliberately trying to isolate Bakri by deporting anybody who tries to help him.
“The British Government has put a lot of pressure on Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammad ever since he’s been there. He’s been interrogated again and again by the various sections of the security services there whether that be the army or the internal security service.”
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