Radical Lebanese cleric sends e-mail to national paper, asking to leave him alone

In an e-mail based article, published Tuesday in a leading Lebanese newspaper, radical Muslim cleric Omar Bakri, barred from Britain last week and briefly detained by Lebanese police, defended his views and actions and asked the news media to leave him alone.

Bakri, who founded the now-disbanded radical Islamic group al-Muhajiroun during his 20 years in Britain, asked Lebanese and foreign reporters and television crews to stop following him.

"I ask the media and journalists to end the siege of my mother's and my family's homes so I can meet with them (his family), and live the rest of my days in my country, Lebanon, in peace and quiet among my relatives and beloved ones," Bakri is quoted as writing by the AP.

The 45-year-old cleric flew to Beirut airport a week ago from London. He was later arrested and questioned for a day and then released after police said there was no reason to hold him.

Reporters, who did not know where Bakri went after leaving the Beirut General Security Building, began doorstepping his mother's home in Beirut and the family's mountain retreat.

In the e-mail dated Saturday, Bakri condemned media reports which he said have portrayed him as a "monster" simply because of his comments in support of resistance to foreign occupation in south Lebanon, the Palestinian territories, Iraq and Afghanistan.

"I tell you in all honesty, my crime is nothing more than (my) political statements that support Jihad (holy war) and legitimate resistance against occupiers of our land, which the British authorities consider to be terrorist activities," Bakri wrote.

Bakri, who has said he plans to settle in Lebanon, restated his opposition to attacks that target innocent civilians such as the July 7 bombings in London that killed 56 people.

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 those in London.

Bakri, 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."

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