Israeli Arab activist enters UK despite travel ban

AP News
Posted: Jun 29, 2011 3:14 PM
Israeli Arab activist enters UK despite travel ban

British officials were left red-faced after a radical Islamic leader banned from the U.K. managed to get into the country anyway.

Islamic Movement in Israel leader Sheikh Raed Salah has since been arrested and is in the process of being deported, but opposition politicians on Wednesday demanded to know how Britain's tough-on-immigration officials let Salah through in the first place.

Labour lawmaker Yvette Cooper called on the Conservative-led government to "explain why an individual banned from this country was allowed to walk in and instead of being stopped at the border had to be pursued by the police instead."

Salah had been due to address lawmakers and others at the Houses of Parliament, but news of his invitation outraged many parliamentarians.

On Monday, Conservative lawmaker Mike Freer asked Home Secretary Theresa May if she was aware of the invite and whether she would bar Salah from entering the country.

May declined to comment directly on the case, but vowed to block anyone whose presence "is not conducive to the public good."

"Coming here is a privilege that we refuse to extend to those who seek to subvert our shared values," she told lawmakers.

It later emerged that May had blocked him, but that he had entered the country regardless.

The exact circumstances of his entry remain unclear, but when British authorities realized he was in the country he was arrested and sent to an immigration detention center. Farooq Bajwa, a lawyer acting for Salah, said his client would fight any move to deport him, adding that Salah had made no attempt to conceal his identity.

"This has not been a cloak-and-dagger visit," he said. "It was publicized well before his arrival that he would be coming."

Salah, an Israeli citizen, has spearheaded the fight against Israeli renovation work near the holy compound in Jerusalem's Old City known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary _ alleging that Israelis were plotting to undermine the foundations of the Islamic shrines which stand at the site.

In 2003, Israel jailed Salah for more than two years, saying his organization funneled money to the Palestinian militant group Hamas, responsible for dozens of deadly suicide bombings in Israel.

British officially regularly act to exclude controversial figures from the country, although they've had mixed success. The botched effort to block Salah has some parallels to the failed attempt to ban Dutch politician Geert Wilders _ an outspoken critic of Islam _ from Britain back in 2009.

Wilders was turned back at the airport when he tried to defy the ban, but he later sued to win the right to enter the country legally.