Middle East

Lebanon frees Muslim cleric Omar Bakri Muhammad on bail

Omar Bakri Muhammad at his home in Tripoli (12 November 2010)
Image caption Bakri Muhammad appealed to the Hezbollah leader after his conviction.

The radical Muslim cleric, Omar Bakri Muhammad, who was sentenced to life in prison in Lebanon, has been released on bail pending a retrial.

A military court ordered his release after he paid bail of around $3,300 (£2,100).

He was convicted in his absence earlier this month of forming a militant group to weaken Lebanon's government.

He settled in Lebanon after being banned from returning to the UK, where he had lived for 20 years.

The retrial is taking place because Bakri Muhammad was not present at the initial trial.

A judicial official told AFP news agency that the cleric would have to attend every session of his retrial.

His release was requested by Nawwar al-Sahili, who is a Hezbollah member of parliament.

He became Bakri Muhammad's lawyer after the cleric appealed to the Hezbollah leader, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, following his conviction.

London bombings

Bakri Muhammad had said after his conviction that he would "not spend one day in prison", but was arrested several days later in the northern city of Tripoli.

He was accused of membership of an armed group aiming to commit "terrorist acts" and plotting to kill Lebanese soldiers.

Omar Bakri Muhammad was born in Syria and also holds Lebanese nationality.

He travelled to Lebanon in 2005 amid a media storm over the London bombings of that year. He had said he would not inform the police if he knew Muslims were planning such attacks.

The UK government excluded him from returning, saying his presence was "not conducive to the public good".

Bakri Muhammad had run a radical Islamist group, al-Muhajiroun or Islam4UK, from north London until it was disbanded in 2004.

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