Omar Bakri Muhammad Fustuq was born in 1958 and is of Syrian and Lebanese origin. He arrived in the United Kingdom in the mid-eighties and was later granted political asylum. There, he became a public figure known for his controversial speeches and statements which regularly attracted media attention.
Exclusion from the United Kingdom
In 2005, Omar Bakri travelled to Lebanon to visit his mother. While he was there, the Home office issued an order excluding him from the United Kingdom on the grounds that his presence “was not conducive to the public good”.
Such an order does not require any crime to be committed and can only be challenged through the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC), which does not allow the defendant to know the evidence held against him. At the very same time, Omar Bakri was arrested in Lebanon on a request from Syrian authorities to surrender him to the security forces in Syria in relation to non-terrorism related events which occurred in Syria during the 80s.
He was nevertheless released in Lebanon where he resumed his activities as a preacher. There, he would be regularly stopped and taken for interrogation by the security services.
Sentenced to life on torture evidence
In November 2010, armed men shot at his car in attempt to get him to stop. Soon after, black cars surrounded his vehicle and men pointed their weapons at him and his 10-year old son. Omar Bakri was forced into a car and driven away. He then disappeared for four days. He was kept in solitary confinement in a dark room. Threats were made to his wife and children. He was then presented to a military court which had already sentenced him to life in his absence on accusations of attempting to overthrow the Lebanese government.
Out of four witnesses which were meant to testify against Omar Bakri, only two were brought to the court. They both explained they did not know Omar Bakri and had only accused him under duress. The case against Omar Bakri collapsed and he was released on bail. However, his passport was removed and he would continue to be regularly followed by members of the security services.
After clashes in Tripoli, the Lebanese authorities organised a crackdown in which 200 people were wanted for arrest. Omar Bakri’s house was stormed on 31 March 2014. His wife was threatened.
Omar Bakri had left the night before.
On 25 May 2014, he was arrested by the military in a house with his wife and children. Laptops and phones were seized. He was then taken to the interrogation unit in Beirut where he was kept for eight days without access to any legal advice. He was then presented to a military court where he first gained access to a lawyer. He was charged with belonging to terrorist groups and planning to establish his own Islamic state. Military prosecutor Saqr also charged Omar Bakri with “giving religious lessons, which included incitement against the state and the Lebanese Army and encouraging sectarian strife and internal fighting.”
He was also charged with undergoing weapons and explosives training, even though his activities were always restricted to preach. He was also charged with belonging to the “terrorist organizations’ Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria and Al-Qaeda and with seeking to establish an Islamic emirate in Lebanon. However, the two organisations are known to have had severe disagreements making it impossible to be a member both.
Mr Bakri’s, 17 years old, brother in-law was arrested by the military and kept for four days during which time he was interrogated about Omar Bakri’s whereabouts. He was repeatedly kicked and electrocuted. After Omar Bakri’s arrest, another relative went to the prison to visit him and bring him a blanket as well as other items. However, once at the prison, he was pulled in and disappeared.
Fear of torture
On 10 June 2014, he was visited by a relative. He was unable to walk and was visibly in a state of shock. He was not able to give details of his treatment out of fear of reprisals.
Omar Bakri is currently detained in an underground cell in Al Rayaniyeh prison with no light and no ventilation. He is held in solitary confinement in a small cell with rats and cockroaches. His conditions of detention have caused his health to seriously deteriorate. He has suffered from heart attacks in the past, as well as diabetes, eczema, asthma and high blood pressure, but is not allowed to keep his medication with him.
He has no means to know when to perform his five obligatory prayers. He is only allowed visits three visits a week, only four minutes each. His lawyer has not been able to visit him yet and no independent doctor has been allowed to examine him. The charges he faces carry the death penalty.
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