BBC apologises to Queen for revealing private conversation about Abu Hamza
Security correspondent told how Queen lobbied home secretary to secure arrest of Islamist cleric
The BBC has apologised to the Queen after its security correspondent recounted a private conversation in which the monarch told him she had lobbied a home secretary to secure the arrest of Abu Hamza al-Masri, the radical Islamist cleric.
Frank Gardner said the monarch personally told him she was aghast that Abu Hamza, who faces imminent extradition to the US, could not be arrested during the period when he regularly aired vehemently anti-British views as imam of Finsbury Park mosque in north London.
The Queen never expresses overtly political views herself, and the convention for people conversing with her, for example at palace receptions or other meetings, is that whatever is said remains off the record.
During an interview with BBC Radio 4's Today programme about the wider issue of the 54-year-old's newly approved extradition to the US, Gardner said of Abu Hamza's former activities that there was a sense MI5 had been too slow to realise how dangerous he was in radicalising other people.
Gardner continued: "Actually, I can tell you that the Queen was pretty upset that there was no way to arrest him. She couldn't understand – surely there had been some law that he had broken? In the end, sure enough, there was. He was eventually convicted and sentenced for seven years for soliciting murder and racial hatred."
A clearly surprised James Naughtie, interviewing Gardner, described this revelation as "a corker". Gardner said: "Yes, I thought I'd drop that in. She told me."
Gardner said: "She spoke to the home secretary at the time and said, surely this man must have broken some laws. Why is he still at large? He was conducting these radical activities and he called Britain a toilet. He was incredibly anti-British and yet he was sucking up money from this country for a long time. He was a huge embarrassment to Muslims, who condemned him."
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