Timing of scoop on cleric's arrest surprised even Scotland Yard

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The Independent Online

It was no surprise that The Sun should break the news that Abu Hamza, the radical Muslim cleric, was being arrested at his home in west London yesterday. His incarceration on behalf of the American authorities had been widely expected for the past month and The Sun headed the pack of right-wing papers calling for him to be put behind bars.

It was no surprise that The Sun should break the news that Abu Hamza, the radical Muslim cleric, was being arrested at his home in west London yesterday. His incarceration on behalf of the American authorities had been widely expected for the past month and The Sun headed the pack of right-wing papers calling for him to be put behind bars.

What did take everyone, including Scotland Yard, by surprise was the timing of The Sun's story. The paper was running a front page exclusive - "Hook Seized Today" - hours before the arrest had happened. The Metropolitan Police were so alarmed at the leak that they broughtthe operation forward by three hours from an initial target of six o'clock in the morning.

The obvious question is who told The Sun and why. Suspicion immediately fell on Downing Street, the Foreign Office and the Home Office. The clue was in the author of the story, Trevor Kavanagh, the paper's well connected political editor, rather than anyone with Scotland Yard contacts. Most well-informed observers believe the reason for the leak - which has caused anger among the police - is that it provided a sop to The Sun and helped boost the Government's image of being tough on suspected terrorists. As the newspaper noted: "The arrest marks a spectacular victory for The Sun . MPs and moderate Muslims have praised our campaign to have the one-eyed hate preacher locked up or booted out of Britain."

The Daily Mail has also campaigned against Hamza. In April it lambasted what it described as Hamza's "public sermons of hate, dripping with anti-British and anti-American venom, (which) strain the tolerance of any civilised society." The Daily Express has been even more virulent, having run more than 100 stories mentioning him in the last year - twice as many as the Mail . The News of the World was also an ardent critic of the "hook-handed preacher of hate", while the The Sunday Times highlighted his failure to comply with the legal process.