Abu Qutada, Britain’s highest profile “terror” suspect, did not appear before a tribunal on Wednesday. He has been accused of funding and inspiring alleged fighters worldwide from a base in London.

He was arrested in October 2002 after disappearing in the weeks after the 11 September, 2001 attacks.

“(Abu Qutada) is a spiritual adviser to terrorist groups and Islamic extremists in the UK and overseas,” said government lawyer Wyn Williams.

In papers issued at the hearing, the government said Abu Qutada was directly linked to top al-Qaida figures and alleged he inspired attacks in the Middle East, Afghanistan and Chechnya.

Rights groups critical

It said videos of the cleric’s sermons were found in the Hamburg flat of Muhammad Atta, who US officials accuse of leading the al-Qaida cell which flew the first plane into the World Trade Centre.

Abu Qutada’s lawyers said he had no faith in the appeals process. His case is being heard by a “special immigration appeals commission” run by the government, not the court.

Under anti-terror laws, authorities do not have to present evidence he committed a crime, but are required to show “reasonable grounds to suspect” he has links to “terrorism”.

Human rights groups have condemned the process and called for the government to present its evidence in open court.