BEIRUT (AFP) – Radical Islamist preacher Omar Bakri has appointed a Hezbollah legislator as his defence lawyer when he goes on trial, a judicial source said on Tuesday, following his arrest in northern Lebanon.
“Omar Bakri has appointed Hezbollah deputy Nawwar Sahili as his lawyer for the retrial,” the date of which has not yet been set, the source told AFP.
Lebanese police on Sunday arrested Bakri at his home in the northern port city of Tripoli, just three days after the formerly Britain-based cleric boasted he would “not spend one day” of a life sentence behind bars.
He now faces a retrial before a military court in line with Lebanese law as he was sentenced in absentia.
Police said Bakri tried to flee in a car as the patrol closed in on his house in Tripoli, prompting an officer to open fire to prevent him from escaping.
Bakri, a Sunni Muslim fundamentalist, has appealed to the leader of Shiite militant Hezbollah for help.
“I urge Hassan Nasrallah to look at the injustice facing Omar Bakri who backs all resistance (movements) against Israel,” Hezbollah’s arch-foe, he said in an interview on private television on Saturday.
Bakri, who has praised the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States and hailed the hijackers as the “magnificent 19,” was sentenced to life by a Lebanese military court last Thursday.
The 50-year-old was found guilty — along with more than 40 other Lebanese, Palestinians, Syrians and Saudis — of “incitement to murder, theft and the possession of arms and explosives.”
The day after the sentence was handed down he vowed he would not spend a single day behind bars. “I will not hand myself in to any court. I do not believe in the law in Britain as (or) in Lebanon,” he told AFP at his home.
Bakri failed to show up for sentencing last week and said he had not been formally informed that the court would issue a verdict, while insisting on his innocence.
The Syrian-born cleric, who also holds Lebanese nationality, said he had no links to Al-Qaeda although he believed in “the same ideology.”
Bakri lived in Britain for almost 20 years before being banned from returning there in 2005 under government curbs following the London underground and bus bombings that year.