Straw protests Stevens deportation from US

From the archive (legacy material)

Marc Sage | | 22 September 2004

Cat Stevens should never have been detained and deported from the United States, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw told his American counterpart tonight.
Mr Straw, in New York for meetings at the UN, told Secretary of State Colin Powell that the action “should not have been taken”.
The singer, who converted to Islam and changed his name to Yusuf Islam in the 1970s, was branded a terrorist supporter by the US Government.
His name was on a US security watch list and was only spotted after his Washington-bound flight had taken off from London on last night.
The discovery led to the aircraft being diverted 600 miles to Bangor, Maine, where Islam was escorted off and questioned by the FBI. He was denied entry to the US on national security grounds.
A spokesman for Mr Straw confirmed that the Foreign Secretary spoke to Mr Powell about the incident.
“He (Mr Straw) heard the reports of the incident involving Cat Stevens,” the spokesman said. “He did say to the Secretary of State that this action should not have been taken. “
The US Department of Homeland Security said Islam was put on the security watch list “because of concerns about activities that could potentially be related to terrorism”.
A spokesman said: “The intelligence community has come into possession of additional information that raises concerns about him.”
US Government sources have claimed that Islam had financially supported the terrorist group Hamas.
But British officials, speaking anonymously, said there was no evidence in the British intelligence community that Islam posed any danger.
That revelation is sure to prompt further anger among Muslim groups on both sides of the Atlantic, who believe Islam was targeted simply because of his faith.
In the past, Islam has denied giving money to any terrorist group.
Islam was tonight in the process of being returned to Britain, the Department of Homeland Security said.