The Libyan Grand Mufti is reportedly being investigated in the UK on suspicion of inciting violence and Islamic insurgency in his home country.
UK media reports say Sheikh Sadiq Abdelrahman Al-Ghariani is suspected of using Tanasuh, a UK-based Internet TV channel, to encourage Islamist fighters trying to overthrow the government in Libya.
On the channel website, Al-Ghariani, who is perceived as one of Libya’s most influential Islamic spiritual leaders, published an “urgent appeal” to Islamist fighters in Libya to “use iron hand to consolidate the victory that they achieved on the battlefields.'
In his carefully worded appeal to “Libya Dawn,” an Islamist militia that has recently taken control of large parts of the Libyan capital Tripoli, Al-Ghariani said there are “those who are enemies of this victory, outlaws who would seek to spoil the victory.”
He also strongly advised the militia to “take firm actions against those who damage private property or public institutions, or terrorise the people and take their money by force.”
Al-Ghariani is allegedly accused of using Britain as a base to support or orchestrate the takeover of Libya by extremist militias with ideological links to Islamic State fighters in Syria and Iraq.
Responding to questions by Ahram Online, the UK Home Office refused to comment directly on Al-Ghariani. However, a spokeswoman said that authorities are checking online materials that could encourage violence and extremism.
The reported Ghariani investigation comes a day after the UK's terror threat level was raised from “substantial” to "severe” in response to the deepening conflict in Iraq and Syria.
David Cameron, the UK prime minister, said Friday that security services had taken down 28,000 instances of extremist material from the internet this year alone.
“Anyone who seeks to foster hatred or promote terrorism is not welcome in the United Kingdom,” the Home Office spokeswoman said.
“All cases are being kept under close review,” she confirmed.
The residency status of Al-Ghgariani in the UK is not clear. The home secretary has the power to order his deportation “on national security grounds” if his speeches are proven to promote extremism.
The Labour Party opposition in the UK recently asked the government to look into Al-Ghariani's behaviour.
David Hanson, shadow immigration minister, was quoted as saying: “There are very serious allegations about someone that has been given permission to enter the country, and the home secretary needs to explain how he was able to travel here and continue to seemingly instigate action in Tripoli.”
In a recent sermon broadcast on Tanasuh TV, the Libyan sheikh appeared to call for Libya Dawn to widen its assault on the regime, urging “revolutionary brigades” to turn their fire on other areas, including Tobruk, to where the country’s parliament fled.