Cleric who called for Muslim soldiers to be killed is arrested

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The Independent Online

A radical cleric who said Muslim members of the British armed forces should be executed has been arrested by police, sparking claims of a " witch-hunt" against his community.

Scotland Yard said Abu Izzadeen, 31, who gained notoriety when he denounced John Reid as "an enemy of Islam" when the Home Secretary visited east London last year, was being questioned on suspicion of encouraging terrorism.

In a video made in 2004 and broadcast by ITN this week, Mr Izzadeen is heard preaching: "So those so-called enemies to Allah who join the British Government ­ because remember the British Government, my dear Muslim brothers, are crusaders ­ crusaders come to kill and rape Muslims. Whoever joins them ­ he who joins the British Army, he is a mortal kaffir. And his only hukum [punishment] is for his head to be removed."

He later defended his remarks, saying that capital punishment was the penalty for those who left Islam.

The arrest is understood to relate to a speech in Birmingham last year in which he reportedly praised the suicide bombers of 7 July.

The radical Muslim leader Anjem Choudhury described Mr Izzadeen as a " natural target" and said British law was "biased against Islam and Muslims".

Claims that "Britain is a police state for Muslims" were raised at the Cabinet yesterday. Abu Bakr, one of nine suspects arrested in connection with an alleged plot to kidnap and behead a British Muslim soldier, made the claims after a court denied a police application to extend his detention for questioning.

Kenneth Clarke, the former Home Secretary, suggested last night that details of the police operation in Birmingham could have been leaked to journalists by the Home Office.

He pointed out the publicity surrounding the arrests came shortly after John Reid, the Home Secretary, announced a fresh attempt to extend the maximum detention without charge for terror suspects beyond 28 days.

The pressure group Liberty has written to Mr Reid to voice "grave concerns" that Home Office advisers may have secretly briefed journalists on the operation.

A Labour MP, David Winnick, protested in the Commons about the "lurid" reports on the case. Jack Straw, the Leader of the House, told MPs the claim that Britain was a police state was "ludicrous". A No 10 spokesman also defended the police action and described the claims as a " simplistic caricature".

"In a police state the court would not have been able to release someone who was questioned by the police. In a police state that person would not then be able to go on to the national airwaves and be interviewed," said the Prime Minister's official spokesman.

"Equally, in a free society the police have an absolute duty and responsibility to act on information if by doing so they believe they are protecting society from a threat. That is the balance we have to achieve in a democratic society. To call the process a police state is categorically wrong."

The rise of a radical

Trevor Brooks - born to a Christian Jamaican family - converted to Islam just before his 18th birthday. He now prefers to be known as Abu Izzadeen. An engineer by training, he was a bodyguard to Omar Bakri Mohammad, leader of the now-banned al-Muhajiroun a group.

Employing a fiery brand of rhetoric, Mr Izzadeen rose to prominence as the spokesman for al-Ghurabaa before it, too, was prohibited seven months ago. He made headlines when he taunted John Reid at a meeting in east London in September. Before being manhandled out of the gathering, he denounced the Home Secretary as an "enemy of Islam and Muslims" and asked why he had ventured into a Muslim area.

In October he joined protests outside the Old Bailey in support of a man on trial over the Danish cartoon protests.

Nigel Morris