(photo credit: Associated Press)
BEIRUT— A radical Muslim cleric was arrested Sunday at his home in northern Lebanon two days after a military court sentenced him in absentia to life in prison in a terrorism trial, authorities said.
Omar Bakri Mohammed was taken into custody without a struggle in the city of Tripoli, police and security officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak publicly.
Mohammed, who holds Syrian and Lebanese citizenship, lived in Britain
for 20 years where he headed the now-disbanded radical Islamist group
He left Britain for Lebanon in 2005 and the British government barred him from returning.
Lebanese officials said Bakri was among 54 people sentenced Friday in
trials of militants who fought deadly clashes with the Lebanese army in
2007. Bakri was convicted of "belonging to an armed group with the aim
of carrying out terrorist acts and plotting to kill Lebanese soldiers."
Judicial officials said Bakri was sentenced to life because of his failure to show up for his trial.
Bakri insisted he never received a summons.
In a telephone interview with The Associated Press on Friday, he said the charges were "lies and fabrications."
Bakri also said his lawyer informed him he had 15 days to turn himself in and appeal the ruling.
It was not immediately clear why authorities did not arrest Bakri
earlier. He appears often on Lebanese TV stations as a guest on
political talk shows and does not live in hiding.
Bakri became a focus of British attention after he said he would not
inform the police if he knew Muslims were planning attacks such as the
July 7, 2005, bombings in London that killed 56 people.
The cleric, who also has been criticized in Britain for his fiery
sermons, said his Muslim faith prevented him from reporting fellow
Muslims to the British police.
Britain later said it had barred Bakri from returning to that country because his presence was not "conducive to public good."