A friend of one of the suspected killers of a soldier butchered in a London street was arrested by counter-terrorism officers yesterday after going on television to allege that Michael Adebolajo was tortured in Kenya and harassed by MI5 – who asked him to spy for them.
The allegations came from Abu Nusaybah, who was arrested under terrorism legislation minutes after finishing recording his interview for BBC Newsnight.
The Guardian understands that Nusaybah is connected to extremists formerly in the banned group al-Muhajiroun. Counter-terrorism officers turned up at reception at the BBC's central London headquarters as his interview was being recorded an hour before it was broadcast. The officers waited, then arrested Nusaybah as he left the BBC's headquarters.
In the interview, Abu Nusaybah in part attributed Adebolajo's radicalisation to his alleged ill-treatment in Kenya.
Nusaybah alleged that Adebolajo was arrested while studying in a village in Kenya last year. After refusing to answer questions, Adebolajo was told that he was "not in the UK" and was then, he claimed, sexually assaulted. On his return, "he became more reclined [sic], less talkative. He wasn't his bubbly self," said Nusaybah, who said that the experience further radicalised Adebolajo.
The Guardian has learned that, last year, Adebolajo went to a lawyer to complain of harassment by MI5, who are drawing criticism today for knowing about the 28-year-old but not assessing him to be a bigger terrorist threat.
He was arrested at the scene of the soldier's murder in Woolwich on Wednesday in the first terror-related death on mainland Britain since the 7 July 2005 bombings.
The Guardian also understands from Whitehall sources that they were aware that Adebolajo was detained in Kenya before being deported.
Nusaybah said he had known Adebolajo since they grew up together in Romford, Essex.
Since the attack on the soldier, Lee Rigby, on Wednesday, a total of six people have been arrested. Nusaybah's was the first under counter-terrorism laws; the rest have been detained under regular criminal laws. Nusaybah was arrested on suspicion of the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism under the Terrorism Act 2000.
Asked about the unusual sequence of events leading to the arrest, the Metropolitan police said: "He was not arrested because of his comments on Newsnight."
The police would not say what led to his arrest, which BBC insiders said had left them shocked. Police also said he was not arrested in connection to the murder of Lee Rigby. Nusaybah's home is understood to be one of two addresses in east London being searched by officers after his arrest.
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