BEIRUT: British officials have rejected a request from radical Islamist Omar Bakri’s London-based family to provide him with asylum in the U.K. over alleged torture in a Lebanese prison.
“[He’s] being tortured and attacked in Lebanon, and I’m pulling him back into the U.K.,” Bakri’s son told Sky News. “I think the British government needs to basically see that their law is flawed.”
The preacher’s daughter, who appears in a video calling for him to be granted asylum, said her father was “not able to cope with the living conditions” in Lebanon’s Roumieh 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 London bombings of 2005 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.
According to the Huffington Post, a spokesman at the Home Office, the government branch responsible for accepting or denying the asylum application, said the government would not allow Bakri to return to the U.K.
“An individual must be physically present in the U.K. in order to make a claim for asylum,” the spokesman said. “Omar Bakri Muhammad was permanently excluded from the U.K. in 2005 on the grounds that his presence is not conducive to the public good.
“As Omar Bakri Muhammad is excluded from the U.K., he will be unable to make a claim for asylum.”
Conservative Party Chairman Grant Shapps also told Sky News that bureaucratic processes would prevent Bakri from returning to the U.K.
“People will have their own opinions, but there are proper processes in place to deal with these things,” he said.
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 tensions.
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.