'Suicide bomb' protester arrested

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The man who dressed as a suicide bomber during protests against the Mohammed cartoons was today arrested and taken to prison, police said.

Omar Khayam, 22, was pictured outside Denmark's embassy in London wearing a simulated suicide bombing outfit to denounce the cartoons, first published in a Danish paper, satirising the prophet Mohammed.

The student was given six years in prison in 2002 for possessing crack cocaine with intent to supply and is still on licence after being released last year halfway through his sentence.

A Bedfordshire Police spokesman said Khayam was arrested this morning under the Criminal Justice Act 2003 and was being conveyed to prison.

Khayam's arrest in Bedford was carried out at the instigation of the Home Office for breaching the terms of his licence.

Inmates released on parole can be returned to prison if they reoffend, breach specific conditions of their licence or fail to attend appointments with their probation officer.

They can also be recalled for "bad behaviour" which causes concern to their probation officer and undermines their supervision in the community.

Yesterday Khayam, from Bedford, apologised "wholeheartedly" for his behaviour in London, saying it was "wrong, unjustified and insensitive" to protest dressed as a suicide bomber.

Officers from the Metropolitan Police travelled to Bedfordshire yesterday with the intention of speaking to Khayam about the incident but returned without interviewing him.

Harry Fletcher, assistant general secretary of the National Association of Probation Officers (Napo), said deciding whether to recall Khayam to jail would be "very difficult".

He went on: "You couldn't have a condition of parole that you don't take part in a protest about your faith."

The student's probation officers had to decide whether dressing up as a suicide bomber constituted bad behaviour, Mr Fletcher added.

A Home Office spokeswoman said: "If an offender is in the community on licence and his behaviour gives cause for concern, he is liable to be recalled back to prison.

"Licence requirements include good behaviour. Intimidating or provocative behaviour, or failing to recognise the impact of your behaviour on others, could breach this."

* The former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey, today denounced the Danish cartoons as a "quite deliberate racist attack" on the Muslim community. But he warned that violent reactions by Muslims risked doing more damage to the name of the Prophet Mohammed than the cartoons.

He called for a deeper dialogue between Christians and Muslims to increase mutual understanding.

Lord Carey said on BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "The Danish (publication) was a quite deliberate racist attack and, with the religious overtones of the Prophet Mohammed, was bound to cause offence, and apparently they knew it, so there is a boundary that was crossed there."

But he also condemned the violence of some of the protests sparked by the cartoons: "We are talking about extremists, and the majority of Muslims abhor the violence done in their name.

"Part of the danger here is that what profanes and damages the Prophet more is acts of violence done in his name."

Lord Carey said: "It does appear that some people in the West simply don't understand the religious mind and the way in which for many Muslims religion is not simply like an overcoat you put on, it is part of their identity.

"From a Muslim point of view, this reaction is understandable. It is regrettable that we in the West don't understand the dangers when we take free speech too far.

"On the other hand, I think the Muslims have got to understand in the encounter with the West that we in the West are used to free speech and nothing, in a sense, is sacred from it."