BEIRUT

Lebanon News

Omar Bakri's health deteriorating: daughter

Bakri was arrested in Lebanon on May 25 after fleeing an army raid on his house in Tripoli. (The Daily Star/Antoine Amrieh)

BEIRUT: The daughter of radical Islamist Omar Bakri said her father was imprisoned in a dirty room with no access to the basic survival needs, stressing his deteriorating health and his mistreatment by prison authorities.

“The room is so small. ... It is very dirty and filled with rats and cockroaches,” said Umm Bilal, Bakri’s London-based daughter. "It is an underground room with no access to light."

She said her father, who is currently incarcerated in Rihanieh’s detention center southeast of Beirut, is suffering from hypertension, diabetes and asthma and often experiences breathing difficulties.

“When he gets an asthma attack, he sometimes knocks on his cell’s door for 30 minutes to one hour before guards bring him his inhaler,” she said. “But then they confiscate it again.”

She alleged that Bakri was fed only boiled rice, and whenever his wife brings him potable water, the guards confiscate the bottles’ covers for “security reasons,” which leads to dirtying the water.

A Red Cross team visited Bakri in prison mid-June, reporting to his family that although he did not suffer from physical injuries, his health and psychological conditions were deteriorating. The Red Cross also recommended after their visit that prison authority allow Bakri to keep his asthma inhaler at all times.

The Red Cross is expected to pay its next visit on July 13; it is only allowed a monthly visit to prisoners in Rihanieh.

Bakri, according to the letter, is only allowed to receive visitors for four minutes, three times a week. The conversation is conducted by phone and a glass wall separates him from his visitor, often his wife.

Umm Bilal said that when Bakri’s wife visited him on June 28, she found him crying and he mentioned that he had been severely tortured.

She accused the Lebanese authorities of “breaking the rules” by keeping Bakri for more than a month in a prison made to host convicts for four days only.

“Others have been [imprisoned] there for more than three months,” she added.

Bakri’s attorney has not yet visited him in prison, according to the daughter, for “difficulty of reaching that place.” His court session was postponed from July 3 to 11.

Last month, British officials rejected a request from Bakri’s London-based family to provide him with asylum in the U.K. over alleged torture the prison.

Bakri, who holds Lebanese and Syrian citizenship, had lived in the U.K. for 20 years before fleeing to Lebanon after being accused of coordinating the 2005 London bombings with Al-Qaeda. British authorities later barred him from returning to the country.

During his time in Britain, Bakri led the now-disbanded U.K.-based radical Islamist group Al-Muhajiroun (The Emigrants) and was often interviewed by Western media.

Bakri was arrested in Lebanon on May 25 after fleeing an army raid on his house in Tripoli with the launching of the city’s security plan.

The security plan came after years of clashes between Tripoli’s mostly Sunni Bab al-Tabbaneh and mainly Alawite Jabal Mohsen neighborhoods. Authorities accuse Bakri of playing a central role in the clashes by instigating religious tension.

He was among 54 people sentenced in Lebanon in November 2010 in trials of militants who fought deadly clashes with the Lebanese Army in 2007.

Military Prosecutor Saqr Saqr has charged him with being a member of the “terrorist organizations Daesh [the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria] and Al-Qaeda and with seeking to establish an Islamic emirate in Lebanon.”

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

Saqr referred the case to Military Judge Riad Abu Ghayda, who issued an arrest warrant against Bakri.

The judge charged the Syrian-born preacher with belonging to an armed group, giving lessons encouraging terror acts, preparing to create an Islamic emirate in north Lebanon, and inciting against the Lebanese Army, the state and its civilian and military institutions.

If convicted, Bakri could face the death penalty.

 

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Summary

A Red Cross team visited Bakri in prison mid-June, reporting to his family that although he did not suffer from physical injuries, his health and psychological conditions were deteriorating.

Bakri, according to the letter, is only allowed to receive visitors for four minutes, three times a week.

Bakri, who holds Lebanese and Syrian citizenship, had lived in the U.K. for 20 years before fleeing to Lebanon after being accused of coordinating the 2005 London bombings with Al-Qaeda.

Authorities accuse Bakri of playing a central role in the clashes by instigating religious tension.

Saqr referred the case to Military Judge Riad Abu Ghayda, who issued an arrest warrant against Bakri.

If convicted, Bakri could face the death penalty.


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