A “preacher of hate” jailed for inciting murder is using human rights laws to mount a High Court challenge to attempts to eject him from the country.
Sheikh Abdullah El-Faisal, a Jamaican-born Muslim convert who urged followers at Brixton Mosque to kill Jews, Hindus and Americans, is due to be freed within weeks after serving two thirds of a seven-year sentence.
The Home Office is seeking to respond by deporting the preacher – described as a “strong influence” on 7/7 bomber Jermaine Lindsay – on the grounds of his continuing threat to national security.
El-Faisal, a twice-married father of four, has lodged an appeal, arguing that deportation would be a breach of his human right to a family life.
A date for the hearing has yet to be set and with further appeals possible, officials say that the legal process – which is likely to cost taxpayers tens of thousands of pounds – is likely to drag on for many months.
The legal challenge, being mounted under article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, is certain to anger critics of the legislation. It will also raise fresh doubts about the Government’s ability to carry out Tony Blair’s promise to deport all foreign convicts.
El-Faisal’s solicitor Khalid Sofi insisted that his client should be allowed to remain in Britain and confirmed that the preacher had lodged an appeal against deportation.
“His case is based on his human right to have a family life. He has a family here, he has children and wants to remain here with them,” he said.
Mr Sofi said that although El-Faisal – who was also convicted of stirring up racial hatred at his 2003 trial – had lost an initial appeal to immigration judges he remained optimistic that his argument would succeed at the High Court.
He added that the preacher would be citing an earlier ruling in October 2001 by an immigration court granting him the right to stay in Britain because of his right to a family life.
El-Faisal, 43, who is currently being held in Long Lartin prison in Worcestershire, became the first Muslim “preacher of hate” to be jailed when he was sentenced to seven years for soliciting murder in March 2003.
He was also convicted of using threatening words to stir up racial hatred.
Peter Beaumont, the Old Bailey judge in the case, said that he had “fanned the flames of hostility” by urging followers to “kill those who did not share your faith” and recommended his deportation at the end of his sentence.
His convictions followed the discovery of a series of venomous taped lectures in which the Brixton Mosque preacher had urged his followers to “fly planes, drive tanks, load your guns” and use nuclear missiles to kill “all unbelievers”.
He also called on Muslim women to give their children toy guns to instill in them “the jihad mentality” and tried to recruit schoolboys to join terrorist training camps by promising them “72 virgins in paradise” if they died fighting a holy war.
The tapes were widely available at radical Islamic bookshops and came with titles such as No Peace with the Jews, Them and Us and Treachery Within. El-Faisal attended and preached at Brixton Mosque, where the shoe-bomber Richard Reid is believed to have met Zacharias Moussaoui, the “20th hijacker” in the 11 September attacks – although he claims to have encountered neither man.
Despite his protestations of innocence, the official Home Office account of the 7 July London bombings emphasised the danger he posed by blaming him for radicalising the Jamaican-born bomber Jermaine Lindsay.
“It is believed that he was strongly influenced by the extremist preacher Abdullah El-Faisal,” the Home Office document states.
“Lindsay is believed to have attended at least one lecture and to have listened to tapes of other lectures by him.”