Good riddance!!!! Saves the Police arresting him for treason!
Radical cleric flees the country
07:33am 9th August 2005
Omar Bakri Mohammed, one of the Islamic extremists who faced possible treason charges over support for the London bombers, has fled to Beirut.
The spiritual leader of the al-Muhajiroun group -which is to be banned under anti-terror laws unveiled by Prime Minister Tony Blair on Friday -sparked outrage last week when he said he would not inform police if he knew Muslims were planning a bomb attack on a train in the UK and supported Muslims who attacked British troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Anjem Choudary, a former UK head of the group, confirmed that the radical cleric left the country on Saturday.
Mr Choudary said: "He is considering his Islamic duties in Lebanon and he is currently looking to go on to one of the Emirate countries and I think you should be hearing from him soon.
"It's an obligation on Muslims that if they can't fulfil their Islamic duties in a certain place then they need to... emigrate to a place where they can, where their lives and their religion is protected."
Bakri, who was investigated by police over his allegedly inflammatory language but never charged, was expelled from Saudi Arabia as an extremist and arrived in Britain in 1986.
News of his departure coincided with criticism that the Government had resorted to floating "half-baked ideas" in a knee-jerk bid to meet media pressure for tough action on terror.
Former Labour Home Office minister John Denham, who chairs the home affairs select committee, told the BBC yesterday he was "very disturbed" the cross-party response to July's attacks in London seemed to have been abandoned.
And he warned that Prime Minister Tony Blair's use of a press conference on Friday to unveil wide-ranging new powers to tackle extremism risked making the Government look weak.
His words came as talks began between the police and the Crown Prosecution Services on the possibility of bringing treason charges against three people.
Although no decision is expected for several weeks, the suggestion met with scepticism and warnings of "confusion" in the response to the latest threat.
Mr Denham told BBC Radio 4's PM programme: "I am very disturbed indeed by the events of the last few days.
"The Government responded to the bombings initially with a very measured approach, a very serious approach, good co-ordination across government.
"The last few days really give this sense that the Government have got into a real state of nerves about the whole thing; it is displaying a lack of confidence in its own strategy and I think they've got to get a grip on it very, very quickly, stop floating half-baked ideas and get back to proper cross-party consensus on the serious measures that need to be taken."
Media pressure meant Downing Street had returned to its "old instincts" to try to win back the headlines.
"The issues at stake here are just far too serious to play it like that," he said. "I didn't think that Friday looked that sure footed and it certainly hasn't been helped by the things that have happened over the weekend.
"They moved on Friday to make a number of dramatic statements, some of which were possibly not as well-developed as they should have been to be announcements.
"I think that was a mistake. Once you start making announcements in press conferences that you have not told the other parties about, you haven't told the community about, you do run into dangers that the strategy looks shaky and far from looking strong, you look weaker than you want to."
The possible use of treason charges was discussed yesterday between the Metropolitan Police and the head of counter terrorism at the CPS Sue Hemming.
Lord Carlile, the Liberal Democrat peer appointed as the independent reviewer of anti-terror legislation, warned treason charges were not "very practical or sensible".
Incitement to murder or solicitation to murder, already used in contract killing cases, would stand a better chance of securing a prosecution, Lord Carlile said.
Edward Garnier, Tory Home Affairs spokesman, said the country had been plunged into "a period of confusion" by the Government.
Mr Garnier, a QC, said: "They will get the support of the Opposition for proper, fair, good proposals that deal with the problem.
"But what we find difficult to deal with is a Government which says one thing on one day and another thing on another. We are getting mixed signals."
Liberal Democrat legal affairs spokesman Simon Hughes warned that such serious charges were less likely to secure a conviction and could affect community relations.
Downing Street refused to be drawn on whether treason charges could be laid, insisting that people were simply "looking at the options that they have".
Meanwhile, Pakistan's president Pervez Musharraf suggested the 7 July London bombings and the botched terror attack two weeks later were masterminded by the same individual.
Asked during last night's episode of The New al-Qaeda shown on BBC2 if he believed the carnage of 7 July and the failed Tube and bus bombings were linked, he said: "Possibly. Because the pattern is similar, therefore while the people were different and maybe the groups didn't know each other, but the planner must be the same."
Possible treason charges
Bakri left London on Saturday after it emerged he would face possible treason charges over support for the London bombings.
He told BBC Radio Five Live he had travelled to Lebanon of his own free will to visit family but planned to return in four weeks.
"I am going to return back in four weeks unless the Government say we are not welcome, because my family is in the UK.
"I left by my own passport. I do not think I will have any problem returning back to the UK but I do not want the Government to use the presence of Omar Bakri to change the rules."
He said he believed the Government was using him to put pressure on the Muslim community.
He added: "I wish for the British people to think about Islam. I wish as well that this Government will go back to its own sense, not changing its values because they do not know who committed the bombings in London."
Bakri denied he had called the 7 July bombers the "fantastic four" and said he condemned the atrocity.
"I never, ever spoke about the bombings in London. Fantastic Four is a film, nothing to do with the bombings. I never, ever talked about the bombings except to condemn the killing of innocent people."
The radical cleric sparked outrage last week when he said he would not inform police if he knew Muslims were planning a bomb attack on a train in the UK and supported Muslims who attacked British troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Asked whether he would inform police if he knew a Muslim was planning to commit a crime, he said his faith does not allow him to do so.
"I will never report to the police any Muslim because Islam forbids me. Definitely I would stop him whatever the cost, even if it cost me my life. That is my duty as a Muslim.
"My religion forbids me to report a Muslim to the British police. I believe Islam is superior and nothing supersedes it but we can live with you in harmony," he said.
He added: "I want for everybody to cool down and live in harmony."
Prepared to stand trial
Bakri said he would be prepared to stand trial on charges of treason or any offence.
"I am sure people would see that there is no crime that I committed. There is no treason. I am not a British subject and I never committed any form of crime whatsoever," he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.
"If there is a crime in the UK and my name has been mentioned, I will be the first one to return, challenge all these allegations the way that I challenge always the distortions of the British tabloid newspapers."
He said he had left Britain openly from Heathrow Airport on a Lebanese Airlines flight.
"It was in the middle of the day, I went out publicly with my big beard, with my stick - Omar Bakri Mohammed. I gave them my passport, they checked it for me," he said.
Labour MP Andrew Dismore, who has campaigned for Bakri to be deported, said Britain was better off without him.
"I think we are safer with him out of the country. He has been a malign influence for getting on for 20 years in this country in the way that he has gone out of his way to recruit young British Muslims," he told the Today programme.
He added: "I think he forgets that he originally came to the UK as a refugee fleeing from the Middle East so if it is safe for him to go back on holiday, maybe it is safe for him to stay back there permanently."
Earlier Anjem Choudary, a former UK head of the group and friend of Bakri, defended the radical cleric and his beliefs.
Mr Choudary told Radio Five Live: "He was labelled as a lunatic, he was labelled as someone who was fringe within society, they labelled him as a mad man.
"I think the truth and the falsehood will always clash like this but ultimately we believe Islam is superior and will one day dominate the whole of the world, so I think that the Muslims will be victorious one day and we will even see the flag of Islam over Downing Street."
He added: "The fact is he contributed enormously to this country both as a taxpayer when he was running his businesses here but more importantly there are thousands of youths who have their understanding of Islam because of what the Sheikh taught them."