Omar Bakri faces death penalty if convicted of terrorism charges

Omar Bakri Muhammad

Omar Bakri Muhammad, formerly one of Britain’s most infamous “radical preachers,” was charged by the Lebanese authorities yesterday with belonging to a terrorist organisation and planning to establish an Islamic state.

Military Prosecutor Saqr Saqr accused Omar Bakri of belonging to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), an Al-Qaeda offshoot, and of seeking to establish an Islamic state in Lebanon.

Saqr also charged Omar Bakri with “giving religious lessons, which included incitement against the state and the Lebanese Army and encouraging sectarian strife and internal fighting.”

The Syrian-born scholar was also charged with undergoing weapons and explosives training, and faces the possibility of the death penalty if convicted.

Saqr referred Omar Bakri to Military Judge Riad Abu Ghayda with a request for an arrest warrant against him.

Authorities detained the fugitive preacher in Aley on May 25, after he fled his home in Tripoli before the Lebanese Army and police launched a security plan to restore law and order to the city, which was plagued by several instances of clashes linked to the crisis in Syria.

The Tripoli-based shaykh had allegedly pledged allegiance to ISIS, urging the radical Syrian rebel group to “reactivate its cells” in Lebanon.

False charges?

Omar Bakri sympathises with Al-Qaeda and recently called for the group’s black flag to be flown over the Baabda presidential palace.

Born in Syria, he lived in Britain for many years, where he was a leading member of Islamic political party, Hizb ut-Tahrir before breaking away in the 90s to form Al Muhajiroun. Upon arrival in Lebanon in 2005, he was informed by the British government that he could not return.

Anjem Choudary
Anjem Choudary

In a statement Bajri’s student Anjem Choudary said: “Sheikh Omar Bakri Muhammad has had many lies attributed to him by the Lebanese authority in order to affect his arrest on behalf of the Syrian regime who are keen to stop any opposition to their slaughter of Muslims. Claims that he is representing Al-Qaeda or that he is instigating any unrest are completely unfounded.

“Rather Sheikh Omar Bakri has released numerous communiques in which he has made it explicit that he is an expert in Islamic movements, that he has not allied himself with any of the factions fighting each other in North Lebanon and that what he says privately is the same as what he has said in front of the world’s media.”

Choudary added: “Sheikh Omar Bakri Muhammad is one of the true scholars of Islam in our era and he is a reference point for many Muslims worldwide. Targeting the ulama (scholars) is a concern for every Muslim and we urge Muslims everywhere to take the Lebanese regime to account and put pressure on them to release the Sheikh.”

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