BERLIN ? A prominent Saudi cleric who has extolled Osama bin Laden and preached violence against Shiites, Jews and Christians slipped quietly into Germany for medical treatment in April and even received police protection in the hospital before his departure last month, government and medical officials acknowledged Wednesday.
The disclosure has set off a fierce political debate here because the cleric?s diatribes are considered a crime in this country, where hate speech is illegal.
The cleric, Sheik Abdullah ibn al-Jebreen, believed to be in his mid-70s, is one of the most influential clerics in Saudi Arabia and a devotee of Wahhabism, a strict form of Islam. American and European counterterrorism officials say he has supported radical Islam and condoned violence against Jews and Christians. Some of his followers are under surveillance by the German intelligence services.
His visit to Germany was first reported early this month by Spiegel Online, the Web site of the newsmagazine Der Spiegel, after an Iraqi exile read about it on the cleric?s Web site and filed a complaint against him. Government officials confirmed details of the visit under questioning in Parliament on Wednesday. Some angry lawmakers demanded to know why he had even been granted entry.
?The man has called for the killing of Shiites, and this is definitely a crime in Germany, and he also praised Osama bin Laden,? said Omid Nouripour, a Green Party member of Parliament, adding, ?This is a scandal.?