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A radical cleric who said Muslim members of the British armed forces should be executed has been arrested by police, sparking claims of a » witch-hunt» against his community.

Scotland Yard said Abu Izzadeen, 31, who gained notoriety when he denounced John Reid as «an enemy of Islam» when the Home Secretary visited east London last year, was being questioned on suspicion of encouraging terrorism.

In a video made in 2004 and broadcast by ITN this week, Mr Izzadeen is heard preaching: «So those so-called enemies to Allah who join the British Government ­ because remember the British Government, my dear Muslim brothers, are crusaders ­ crusaders come to kill and rape Muslims. Whoever joins them ­ he who joins the British Army, he is a mortal kaffir. And his only hukum [punishment] is for his head to be removed.»

He later defended his remarks, saying that capital punishment was the penalty for those who left Islam.

The arrest is understood to relate to a speech in Birmingham last year in which he reportedly praised the suicide bombers of 7 July.

The radical Muslim leader Anjem Choudhury described Mr Izzadeen as a » natural target» and said British law was «biased against Islam and Muslims».

Claims that «Britain is a police state for Muslims» were raised at the Cabinet yesterday. Abu Bakr, one of nine suspects arrested in connection with an alleged plot to kidnap and behead a British Muslim soldier, made the claims after a court denied a police application to extend his detention for questioning.

Cleric who called for Muslim soldiers to be killed is arrested