NAIROBI, Kenya – A radical Jamaican-born Muslim cleric whose teachings influenced one of the 2005 London transport network bombers will stay in a Kenyan prison until authorities find a way to send him home, Kenya's immigration minister said Monday.
Otieno Kajwang said Sheik Abdullah el-Faisal was jailed because he is a threat to the security of the country. Kajwang said he issued the order that el-Faisal be held in jail but declined to say for how long. Kenyan law allows police to hold suspects for 24 hours without charging them.
Britain has said that el-Faisal's teachings heavily influenced one of the men who carried out the London bombings that killed 52 people. The Jamaican-born cleric has called for Americans, Hindus and Jews to be killed.
"We are, as a country, still of the opinion that this gentleman is not safe for Kenya," Kajwang told reporters. "We are in a very difficult situation which we must tackle but in the interest of the country we will not release him until we send him home."
Attempts to deport el-Faisal last Thursday failed because he was denied a transit visa when he arrived in Nigeria en route to Gambia, which had agreed to host him. El-Faisal was flown back to Kenya Sunday morning.
Kajwang said by the time el-Faisal got to Nigeria, Gambian authorities had also refused to grant him entry because of the "bad publicity" surrounding his deportation.
Britain, South Africa, Tanzania and the U.S. have declined to grant el-Faisal a transit visa that would allow him to connect to flights to Jamaica.
El-Faisal served four years in a British jail for inciting murder and stirring racial hatred by urging followers to kill Americans, Hindus and Jews. He once led a London mosque attended by convicted terrorists.
Human rights activists have protested el-Faisal's imprisonment saying that he was being held in jail without trial.
Al-Amin Kimathi, the coordinator of the Muslim Human Rights Forum, asked the government to release el-Faisal to the custody of the Muslim community in the country until they make proper arrangements to deport him. He said el-Faisal's detention is proof of discrimination against Muslims in Kenya.
He said el-Faisal had not committed any offense in Kenya and should not be imprisoned.
Kimathi said the el-Faisal has requested to be taken to Geneva. Kimathi said that from Geneva el-Faisal can take a connecting flight to Jamaica.
El-Faisal's lawyer, Mbugua Mureithi, said his client's rights had been violated because he has been denied legal representation. He said he had spoken with el-Faisal on phone from prison, who complained that he was never been served with the deportation orders. Mbugua said he is seeking a court order to compel the government to release el-Faisal.
Kajwang said el-Faisal's arrest should not be misconstrued as a religious war.
"It is a war against an individual who we have good reason to exclude from Kenya," he said.
El-Faisal arrived in Kenya on Dec. 24, but immigration officials at a border point did not know who he was because a database that has the watch list was shut down while new software was being installed. Kenyan authorities only realized he was in the country a week later.
Internet postings purportedly written by a Nigerian man now charged with trying to bomb a U.S.-bound airliner on Dec. 25 referred to el-Faisal as a cleric he had listened to.
The posting was made in March 2005 under the name "farouk1986" — the year suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was born. Officials haven't verified that the postings were written by Abdulmutallab, but details from the posts match his personal history.
El-Faisal preached at London's Brixton mosque in the 1990s before being ejected by mosque authorities because of his support for violent jihad. The mosque was attended at different times by Richard Reid, who is serving a life sentence in a U.S. prison after a failed 2001 attempt to blow up an airplane, and convicted Sept. 11 plotter Zacarias Moussaoui.