UK grants bail to Jordanian preacher

Abu Qatada, once described as "Osama bin Laden's right-hand man in Europe", to be released into strict UK house arrest.

    Abu Qatada, in the back seat wearing a grey hood, leaves Long Lartin prison in this June 2008 photo [EPA]

    A Muslim preacher Britain believes poses a threat to its national security has been granted bail, despite attempts by the Home Office to keep him in prison.

    Abu Qatada, a Jordanian once described as "Osama bin Laden's right-hand man in Europe", is expected to be released
    into a tight form of house arrest after the decision to grant bail was made on Monday by the UK's Special Immigration Appeals Commission.

    Abu Qatada made his application for bail after winning an appeal in a European court last month to stop Britain from deporting him to Jordan to stand trial on terrorism charges.

    Abu Qatada, whose real name is Omar Othman, has been fighting attempts to deport him for six years and his case has become a key test of how Britain treats foreign suspects accused of having links with groups such as al-Qaeda.
     
    A court in Jordan has found Abu Qatada guilty in his absence of involvement in two bomb plots and a senior British judge has
    described him as a "truly dangerous" supporter of radical Islamist groups.

    Cameron incensed

    Abu Qatada, who was born in 1960 near Bethlehem, then part of Jordan and now of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, is being held in Long Lartin prison in Worcestershire, central England.

    Never formally charged with an offence, he has been in and out of custody and been held under a form of house arrest since he was first detained under anti-terrorism laws in 2002.

    The European Court of Human Rights ruled in January that Britain could not deport him as he would not receive a fair
    trial in Jordan because evidence against him might have been obtained by torture.

    Incensed by that decision, David Cameron, the UK prime minister, called for a major overhaul of the Strasbourg court.

    A Home Office spokesperson said after Monday's bail ruling: "Qatada should remain in detention, our view has not changed. That is the argument we made to the court today and we disagree with its decision."

    The spokesman said: "This is a dangerous man who we believe poses a real threat to our security and who has not changed in his views or attitude to the UK.

    The Home Office said Abu Qatada's release on bail was "not the end of the road".

    "We are continuing to consider our legal options in response to the European Court's ruling," the spokesman said.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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