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Al-Faisal back in Kenyan prison

Tuesday, January 12, 2010    

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RADICAL Muslim Cleric Sheik Abdullah al-Faisal will stay in a Kenyan prison until authorities find a way to send him home, Kenya's immigration minister said yesterday.

Otieno Kajwang said al-Faisal was jailed because he is a threat to the security of the country. Kajwang said he issued the order that al-Faisal be held in jail but declined to say for how long. Kenyan law allows police to hold suspects for 24 hours without charging them.

Britain has said that al-Faisal's teachings heavily influenced one of the men who carried out the London bombings that killed 52 people. The Jamaican-born cleric has called for Americans, Hindus and Jews to be killed.

"We are, as a country, still of the opinion that this gentleman is not safe for Kenya," Kajwang told reporters. "We are in a very difficult situation which we must tackle but in the interest of the country we will not release him until we send him home."

Attempts to deport al-Faisal last Thursday failed because he was denied a transit visa when he arrived in Nigeria en route to Gambia, which had agreed to host him. Al-Faisal was flown back to Kenya Sunday morning.

Kajwang said by the time al-Faisal got to Nigeria, Gambian authorities had also refused to grant him entry because of the "bad publicity" surrounding his deportation.

Britain, South Africa, Tanzania and the US have declined to grant al-Faisal a transit visa that would allow him to connect to flights to Jamaica.

Al-Faisal served four years in a British jail for inciting murder and stirring racial hatred by urging followers to kill Americans, Hindus and Jews. He once led a London mosque attended by convicted terrorists.

Human rights activists have protested al-Faisal's imprisonment saying that he was being held in jail without trial.

Al-Amin Kimathi, the coordinator of the Muslim Human Rights Forum, asked the government to release al-Faisal to the custody of the Muslim community in the country until they make proper arrangements to deport him. He said al-Faisal's detention is proof of discrimination against Muslims in Kenya.

He said al-Faisal had not committed any offence in Kenya and should not be imprisoned.

Kimathi said the al-Faisal has requested to be taken to Geneva. Kimathi said that from Geneva al-Faisal can take a connecting flight to Jamaica.

Al-Faisal's lawyer, Mbugua Mureithi, said his client's rights had been violated because he has been denied legal representation. He said he had spoken with al-Faisal on phone from prison, who complained that he was never been served with the deportation orders. Mbugua said he is seeking a court order to compel the government to release al-Faisal.

Kajwang said al-Faisal's arrest should not be misconstrued as a religious war.

"It is a war against an individual who we have good reason to exclude from Kenya," he said.

Al-Faisal arrived in Kenya on December 24, but immigration officials at a border point did not know who he was because a database that has the watch list was shut down while new software was being installed. Kenyan authorities only realised he was in the country a week later.

Internet postings purportedly written by a Nigerian man now charged with trying to bomb a US-bound airliner on December 25 referred to al-Faisal as a cleric he had listened to.

Al-Faisal preached at London's Brixton mosque in the 1990s before being ejected by mosque authorities because of his support for violent jihad. The mosque was attended at different times by Richard Reid, who is serving a life sentence in a US prison after a failed 2001 attempt to blow up an airplane, and convicted September.

Yesterday, a senior official at Jamaica's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the ministry was closely monitoring the developments in Kenya.

"The ministry is in close contact with officials in Kenya regarding the case; we would have to be," the offficial told the Observer yesterday.

The official, however, declined to say whether there were any plans to keep track of the cleric's movements when he arrives in Jamaica.

-- Jamaica Observer and AP

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