BERLIN — A prominent Saudi cleric who has extolled Osama bin Laden and preached violence against Shiites, Jews and Christians slipped quietly into Germany for medical treatment in April and even received police protection in the hospital before his departure last month, government and medical officials acknowledged Wednesday.
The disclosure has set off a fierce political debate here because the cleric’s diatribes are considered a crime in this country, where hate speech is illegal.
The cleric, Sheik Abdullah ibn al-Jebreen, believed to be in his mid-70s, is one of the most influential clerics in Saudi Arabia and a devotee of Wahhabism, a strict form of Islam. American and European counterterrorism officials say he has supported radical Islam and condoned violence against Jews and Christians. Some of his followers are under surveillance by the German intelligence services.
His visit to Germany was first reported early this month by Spiegel Online, the Web site of the newsmagazine Der Spiegel, after an Iraqi exile read about it on the cleric’s Web site and filed a complaint against him. Government officials confirmed details of the visit under questioning in Parliament on Wednesday. Some angry lawmakers demanded to know why he had even been granted entry.
“The man has called for the killing of Shiites, and this is definitely a crime in Germany, and he also praised Osama bin Laden,” said Omid Nouripour, a Green Party member of Parliament, adding, “This is a scandal.”
August Hanning, state secretary of the Interior Ministry, said by telephone that he had no warning of the visit and that the cleric had entered with a French visa. “The government had no idea about this,” he said.
Peter Altmaier, another state secretary of the Interior Ministry, told Parliament that government officials first heard about the cleric’s presence in Germany when the Saudi interior minister contacted the German Embassy in Riyadh on May 11 and asked that Mr. Jebreen receive police protection in a Berlin hospital where he was undergoing heart treatment.
The police stopped by the hospital several times to check on him. “We were in regular contact with the hospital and the Saudi Embassy,” said Martin Otter, a Berlin police spokesman.
Guido Steinberg, a terrorism expert at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, said, “Everything that you have heard about him is absolutely Wahhabi mainstream, that the Shiites are apostates and that people should go to Iraq and fight against occupiers.”
The Iraqi exile, Ali al-Sarray, whose lawyer filed the complaint to the German police in May, said Mr. Jebreen “is one of the brainwashers who is responsible for terrorism and the killing of innocent people.”
When the Saudi government learned of the complaint it asked for police protection because it feared reactions from Shiite groups, a German diplomat said.
There is no evidence that the cleric is tied to any particular extremist group, but in a speech, he said of Osama bin Laden, “May God aid him and bring victory to him and by him.”
Eric Schmitt and Mark Mazzetti contributed reporting from Washington.
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