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Kenya Unable to Rid Itself of Unwanted Muslim Cleric

  • Alan Boswell

A radical Muslim cleric who was convicted of violating hate speech laws in Britain is back in Kenyan custody after a deportation attempt failed. The government said Monday that he would remain in state custody until an avenue is found for his return back to his homeland of Jamaica.

Sheikh Abdullah al-Faisal is stuck in limbo after Nigerian authorities refused him transit access and sent him back to Kenya. He is being held by the state until Kenyan authorities find a way to deport him.

The controversial cleric was on his way to Gambia, but upon arrival to Lagos was sent immediately back to Kenya. The Muslim preacher has reportedly told a Kenyan Muslim rights group that he now wishes to be boarded on a flight to Geneva, from where he would return to Jamaica.

Kenyan immigration minister Otieno Kajwang told reporters Monday that the nation would not budge from its position that Faisal was a potential threat and would not be freed.

"We are as a country still of the opinion that this gentleman is not safe for Kenya," said Otieno Kajwang. "This is not a religious war against any religion; it's against an individual whom we have very good reason to exclude from Kenya. We will try every other means to get him to Jamaica."

The preacher was sentenced to seven years behind bars in Britain after being accused of advocating for the murder of Jews, Hindus, and Westerners. He only served four years of his term before being deported in 2007.

Kajwang has said that the cleric is on an international terrorist watch list and only gained entry to the nation by entering through a Tanzanian border point not connected to a central database. The minister said that once he starting preaching in the port city of Mombasa, he violated his tourist visa and gave reason for his detention.

Faisal's arrest has stirred complaints from within Kenya's minority Muslim community, which strongly populates its coastal and northeastern areas.

A few hundred protesters attended a street demonstration on Friday decrying the "unfair" treatment given to the convicted hate preacher, chanting "Allahu Akbar" amid fiery speeches from Muslim leaders.

The head of the Muslim Human Rights Forum, Al-Amin Kimathi, says his group has been denied face-to-face access with the detained cleric.

"We submit that Sheikh Faisal has not been granted his rights to visitation, rights to legal council, rights to access by family - and in family, we represent the family," said Al-Amin Kimathi.

Kimathi asserted that the preacher claimed his health is "deteriorating" during an earlier phone conversation with Muslim leaders.

Faisal is alleged to have been an influence on one of the bombers who struck London in July 2005. The Nigerian who tried to blow himself up on Christmas day on a U.S. airliner is also believed to have posted praise for the cleric on the Internet.