London, Nov 13 (IANS) Syrian-born hate preacher Omar Bakri, who praised the 9/11 killers as 'the magnificent 19', is in hiding after he was sentenced to life in jail for helping to train Al Qaeda militants, a media report said Saturday.
The ranting cleric, who lived in London for nearly 20 years, was also found guilty of raising funds for Osama bin Laden's followers, Daily Express reported.
Bakri, who has two wives and seven children, did not attend the military court in Lebanon. The 52-year-old, once described as Al Qaeda's spiritual leader in Britain, called the charges 'absurd' and claimed the court case was a politically motivated 'stitch-up' after the Lebanese government came under pressure from Britain and the US.
Bakri, one of the most reviled Al Qaeda supporters, moved to Britain in 1986. He formed the Al-Muhajiroun organisation, which recruited radical Muslims at mosques in Britain, while reaping benefits at a cost of at least 500,000 pounds to the taxpayer.
Known as 'the Tottenham Ayatollah', he fled Britain for Lebanon after blaming the 7/7 outrages in London on the British public and the government.
In court Friday, he was found guilty in his absence, along with more than 40 other Lebanese, Palestinian and Saudi citizens, of charges that include inciting murder and helping to train Al Qaeda jihadists at a terror camp.
Speaking from his hideout in the Lebanese city of Tripoli, where he is sheltered by relatives, Bakri launched a self-pitying rant at the sentence. He also predicted violence on Britain's streets if he is jailed.
He said: 'They say I have been training people in weapons. I have never held a weapon in my life.
'They gave 25 of us, including me, a life sentence, which is the maximum because we were absent. It was simply because we are Sunni Muslims.'
He said he would not go to court to challenge the decision.
'God is my protector and I do not want to go to prison. But if it is his will that I spend the rest of my life behind bars, so be it. I have no passport, no documents, I cannot go anywhere so they will find me. I walk with a stick, I have diabetes - how can I train people in weapons?
'If I go to prison there will be protests in Australia, the US, the UK, everywhere - but I do not want to be a martyr.'
British-born Muslim cleric Anjem Choudary, Bakri's right-hand man, said: 'It will be a sad day for Islam if Omar Bakri is ever silenced. He is a big influence on Muslims in the UK,' he said.
Friday night Tory MP Patrick Mercer said of Bakri: 'This man has caused untold grief and misery and violence throughout the world. The damage he has done radicalising young people in this country is untold.'
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