- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 25, 2003

LONDON, Feb. 25 (UPI) — The first Muslim cleric to face trial in a British criminal court has been convicted of soliciting the murder of "non-believers," including Jews, Hindus and Americans.

A jury at London's Old Bailey court also found Abdullah el Faisal guilty of racial hatred in a series of sermons against non-Muslims that he preached on videotapes and in personal appearances around the country.

El Faisal faces sentencing March 7 and faces a maximum term of life imprisonment on the soliciting to murder charge. Government authorities also said he is likely to be deported to his native Jamaica — where he was born 39 years ago as William Forest — after his sentence.

The case marked the first time in more than a century that anyone had been charged under Britain's 1861 Offenses Against the Person Act of soliciting murder without a specific victim.

The bearded cleric pleaded not guilty to a total of nine charges, claiming his words had been "misrepresented." But Peter Clarke, head of Scotland Yard's anti-terrorism branch, said Britain's Muslim community was "appalled by his lectures, which were deliberately targeted at impressionable young people."

During his trial, video tapes were played showing el Faisal urging teenaged Muslim boys to train with AK47 Kalashnikov assault rifles, told them they should prepare from age 15 to sacrifice their lives for jihad — "holy war" — and promised each of them 72 virgins in paradise if they died as religious martyrs.

In the tapes, he insisted that "every Muslim hates the unbeliever" and that "we want to see their extermination. One of the truths about Islam is that Allah said 'Kill them.' You can use anything — even chemical weapons."

El Faisal said Jews "are rotten to the core" and "should be killed very soon, as by Hitler." He added that: "if you see a Hindu walking down the road, you are allowed to kill him and take his money."

The cleric also eschewed the concept of progress through peace. "The way forward can never be the ballot," he said. "The way forward is the bullet."

Scotland Yard's Peter Clarke said el Faisal had targeted "impressionable young Muslims" with his message and that "we simply do not know how many … may have gone abroad and never returned."

"The case was nothing to do with freedom of speech," said Clarke, "but everything to do with racial hatred and religious bigotry, and encouraging people to commit acts of terrorism."

Police said some of his young "students" may have gone to join anti-Western training camps abroad, though authorities said they had found no direct proof of any link between el Faisal and accused terrorist leader Osama bin Laden's al Qaida organization.

After the verdict, Muhammed Abdul-Mutakabbir, one of the convicted cleric's supporters, said bringing el Faisal to trial was "an injustice. Because Sheikh el-Faisal has been convicted, so has the Koran," Islam's holy book.

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