U.K. Islamic TV head held on terror claims

Jan. 26, 2010 at 12:28 PM

PRETORIA, South Africa, Jan. 26 (UPI) -- The head of Britain's popular Muslim television station was arrested in South Africa and faces deportation to Tunisia on terrorism claims, officials said.

Mohamed Ali Harrath, the force behind Britain's Islam Channel, was arrested Sunday in what some said was a security clampdown in South Africa in the months leading up to the 2010 World Cup soccer championship, The Times of London reported Tuesday.

The Times reported more than a year ago that Harrath, who advised Scotland Yard on Islamic extremism, was wanted by Interpol because of alleged terrorist activities in his homeland of Tunisia. The broadcaster was convicted in absentia of criminal and terrorism-related offenses in Tunisia and sentenced to 56 years in prison.

Harrath, who has a heart condition, collapsed during his arrest and was hospitalized in Pretoria under police guard, The Times said.

The Islam Channel accused Tunisia Monday of using Interpol to harass Harrath, who has been on an Interpol Red Notice -- the highest watch level -- since 1992 at Tunisia's request. He was allowed into Britain in 1995 and accepted as a refugee.

Harrath could be returned to Britain or sent to Tunisia, which has an extradition treaty with South Africa, The Times said. An emergency court application on behalf of the Islam Channel prevented Harrath from being deported immediately to Tunisia. A full court hearing on the matter was scheduled for Wednesday.

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