November 14, 2010 / 4:12 PM / 10 years ago

Lebanon arrests preacher who praised 9/11 hijackers

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Lebanese security forces arrested Islamist preacher Omar Bakri Mohammed on Sunday, three days after a court sentenced him and 21 other people to life in prison for carrying out “terrorist acts.”

A police statement said Bakri tried to flee when they came to arrest him at his home in the northern city of Tripoli, but he was captured after shots were fired at his car’s back tyres.

He was one of 47 people sentenced on Thursday night who received terms ranging from three months to life imprisonment. Those who received life were sentenced in absentia and have the right to appeal against the verdict.

A judicial source said the convicted people “belonged to an armed group with the purpose of ... killing and sabotaging. They also helped terrorists in moving and gave them weapons to kill civilians and troops.” The source did not specify which attacks were involved but said they took place in Lebanon.

Bakri, a Lebanese citizen of Syrian origin, denied the charges and told Reuters on Friday the sentence was politically motivated. He said he had not even been informed about the court session at which he was sentenced.

Bakri, who used to live in London, became infamous when he referred to the hijackers behind the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States as the “magnificent 19.” He has been banned from entering Britain for the last five years.

He has insisted his message is peaceful and said the controversial “magnificent 19” comment was a stunt.

Reporting by Laila Bassam; editing by Noah Barkin

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