BEIRUT: The daughter of radical Islamist Omar Bakri said her father is imprisoned in a dirty cell with no access to basic medical treatment, stressing his deteriorating health and alleged mistreatment at the hands of prison authorities.
“The room is so small. ... It is very dirty and filled with rats and cockroaches,” Umm Bilal, Bakri’s London-based daughter, wrote in an open letter published in the pan-Arab daily “Asharq al-Awsat.”
“It is an underground room with no access to light.”
She said her father, who is currently incarcerated on terror charges in Metn’s Rihanieh detention center southeast of Beirut, is suffering from hypertension, diabetes and asthma and often has difficulty breathing.
“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. 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 the water becoming dirtied.
According to Umm Bilal, a team from the International Committee of the Red Cross visited Bakri in prison in mid-June, and reported to his family that although he did not suffer from physical injuries, his health and psychological condition were deteriorating.
The ICRC team also recommended after their visit that the prison authorities allow Bakri to keep his asthma inhaler at all times.
The ICRC is expected to pay its next visit on July 13. It is only allowed a monthly visit to prisoners in Rihanieh.
According to his daughter’s letter, Bakri is only allowed to receive visitors for four minutes, three times a week. Conversations are conducted by phone and a glass wall separates him from his visitors, 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 his 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 grant him asylum in the U.K. over alleged torture in 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 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 referred the case to Military Judge Riad Abu Ghayda, who issued an arrest warrant against Bakri.
The judge charged him with belonging to an armed group, giving lessons encouraging terror acts, preparing to create an Islamic emirate in north Lebanon, and inciting against the Army, the state and its civilian and military institutions.
If convicted, Bakri could face the death penalty.