In this piece The Guardian the home secretary, Theresa May, has said police are examining evidence seized over the recent arrest of Islamic cleric Abu Qatada to see if he can be prosecuted in UK courts. Judges at the court of appeal have repeatedly blocked the preacher’s deportation, amid fears he would face an unfair trial based on evidence obtained by torture in his native Jordan. On Thursday she refused to set a timetable on when he would be deported. May has negotiated with the Jordanian authorities to secure assurances about the evidence that would be used in his trial. She is due to launch a UK Supreme Court appeal against her latest rebuff.
In this report Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, said the Government “will get there” despite losing an appeal against a ruling which prevented the cleric being sent to Jordan, where he is due to face terrorism charges. He said ministers would continue to seek strengthened assurances from his native Jordan that the authorities would not use evidence obtained by torture against him. The Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) decided in November last year that Qatada could not be removed to Jordan, where he was convicted of terror charges in his absence in 1999. The judges ruled that there was a “real risk” that evidence from Qatada’s former co-defendants, who were allegedly tortured, could be used against him at a retrial, breaching his human rights.
19 April 2012
A Muslim cleric, Abu Qatada, who is accused of having links to al-Qaida has caused a stir in UK politics. Successive UK governments have become entangled in a long legal battle to deport the “extremist Islamist cleric” to Jordan; however they failed thanks to Jordan’s poor human rights record. It was the ECtHR that had been stopping the UK government from deporting Abu Qatada, hence along with a few other similar high profile cases, the case prompted British politicians to question Britain’s commitment to the ECHR as the final decision maker on domestic issues. The debate went so far as to call the UK government to withdraw from the ECHR and stipulate sterner laws to crack down on “Islamic extremism”.
Last week the UK government got very close to scoring a significant victory when they managed to get Abu Qatada rearrested by the Special Immigration Appeals Commission. The court that deals with national security deportations revoked Abu Qatada’s bail, which gave Home Secretary Theresa May an opportunity to swiftly deport him. While the Home Office was gearing up to deport the cleric it became apparent that Abu Qatada’s lawyers had appealed to the ECtHR before the deadline which resulted in further delays in the cleric’s deportation process and a major embarrassment for the UK government as they failed yet again to deport the “radical Islamist”.
Last Monday, Abu Qatada, a radical Muslim cleric accused of being an al-Qaeda terrorist (and, what is more, figurehead) and who is thought to pose a serious risk to the UK’s national security, was released from jail after bail was granted by a London judge the week before. Qatata, who spent the last six-and-a-half years in detention in the UK, was released under some of the toughest bail conditions imposed since 9/11.
Qatada, who has never been formally charged with a crime in the UK, was in an out of jail since 2002, when he was detained under the anti-terrorism laws that – at the time – allowed suspected terrorists to be jailed without charge. Authorities had accused him of advising militants and raising money for terrorist attacks. However, when the unpopular anti-terrorism law was overturned in 2005, Qatada was released from prison – but kept under surveillance. He was arrested again a few months later and help pending deportation to Jordan. Yet, plans to deport him were halted by a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights. The European judges ruled that he could not be deported without assurances from Jordan that evidence gained through torture would be be used against him. The same Court ruled last week that Qatada’s detention without charge was unlawful – which led him to apply for bail.
Under the terms of his release, Qatada must obey a 22-hour curfew and wear an electronic tag; he is only allowed outside his London home in a prescribed area for two one-hour periods a day. Furthermore, he is banned from using the phone or the internet and must not communicate with a long list of people, including al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri and radical cleric Abu Hamza. The bail terms also banned him from leading prayers, giving lectures and preaching. In addition to these conditions, 60 police officers and MI5 agents provide 24/7 “protection” for Qatada, which costs around £10,000 a week. Amongst other, London’s Mayor Boris Johnson said it was “eccentric” to have so many offiers on duty to guard Abu Qatada. Johnson said it would be a good thing if he was put on trial as soon as possible. The Government stressed that they were considering “all the options” for removing Qatada from the country at the earliest opportunity. As he was still a national security risk, he should especially be deported before the Olympic Games in London in July/ August.
Some of Britain’s most dangerous al-Qaeda leaders are promoting jihad from inside high-security prisons by smuggling out propaganda for the internet and finding recruits. In an authoritative report, the “counter-terrorism think tank” Quilliam claims “mismanagement” by the Prison Service is helping al-Qaeda gain recruits and risks “strengthening jihadist movements”.
Abu Qatada, described by MI5 as “Osama bin Laden’s right-hand man in Europe”, has published fatwas – religious rulings – on the internet from Long Lartin prison, in Worcestershire, calling for holy war and the murder of moderate Muslims, it reveals.
al-Qaeda’s North African wing has threatened to kill a British tourist taken hostage in the Sahara unless the radical cleric and terrorism suspect Abu Qatada is released within 20 days. The kidnapped man was among four European tourists seized in January after their convoy was ambushed near the border of Niger and Mali, where they had been after attending a Tuareg festival.
Abu Qatada, once described by a Spanish judge as “Osama bin Laden’s righthand man in Europe”, is being held in Britain pending deportation to his native Jordan, where in 1999 he was convicted in his absence of conspiracy to cause explosions and sentenced to life imprisonment. The charges related to bombings at the American school and the Jerusalem hotel in Jordan. He was convicted a second time in 2000 over a plot to bomb tourists. Abu Qatada is one of the highest profile terror suspects held in Britain today, and when Jacqui Smith, the home secretary, signed his deportation order on 18 February she said: “I am keen to deport this dangerous individual as soon as I can.”
“We demand that Britain release Sheikh Abu Qatada, who is unjustly [held], for the release of its British citizen. We give it 20 days as of the issuance of this statement,” the group al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) said in a posting on an Islamist website yesterday. “When this period expires, the Mujahideen will kill the British hostage.”
The issue highlights the difficulty how to deal with dangerous Islamist prisoners and with al-Qaeda threats from outside Europe, while maintaining security in the UK and without endangering any hostages.
Abu Qatada, an extremist cleric held in a high-security jail in Worcestershire, has smuggled messages out of prison to his followers. Besides praising the Mujahidin and the “martyrs of Hamas”, he also claims his treatment is helping to radicalise a new generation of young British Muslims:
“A new generation of the Muslim youth has been raised, and especially amongst our brothers who originate from the Indian subcontinent, who were no longer mesmerized by the English authority, nor regarding the English values — rather they hate it and they know its enmity towards them, so they have become enemies towards it as well.”
He furthermore writes about meeting Bilal Abdullah, a doctor jailed for the car bomb attacks in London and Glasgow in 2007, who says he was heavily influenced by Abu Qatada’s taped sermons. Abu Qatada was detained under emergency anti-terror laws in October 2002 and is currently being held pending deportation to Jordan, where he has been convicted in his absence for involvement in terrorist attacks.
An extremist cleric, once described by a judge as Osama bin Laden’s right-hand man in Europe, is facing indefinite imprisonment in Britain. Abu Qatada, who has been out on bail amidst the UK government’s continuing efforts to deport him to his native Jordan, will appear in court today on accusations of planning to flee to the UK. Jacqui Smith, the home secretary, ordered that Qatada be arrested after the UK Border Agency uncovered evidence that the father of five was planning to surreptitiously slip out of the country to Lebanon without a passport.
Qatada, 47, who arrived in Britain 15 years ago on a forged UAE passport, has already been convicted in absentia in Jordan for his role in plotting a bombing campaign against tourists in 1998. A British judge blocked his extradition to Jordan this year and ordered his release from prison on strict bail conditions, including that he wear an electronic tag, not attend a mosque, and remain in his home in London for 22 hours a day.
The judge ruled out deportation because he could not be sure that Qatada would not be tortured if sent back to Jordan. The British government is appealing the judge’s rejection of the extradition on the grounds that it has obtained guarantees from the Jordanians that Qatada will not be tortured.
Qatada, held in Belmarsh Prison – a high security centre in south London – will appear before a judge presiding over a special immigration appeals commission hearing, accused of breaching his bail conditions. The government wants him to be kept in prison for as long as it takes for his extradition case to be resolved, labeling him a threat to national security.
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The radical Abu Qatada has variously been described as a “truly dangerous individual” and a “key UK figure” in al-Qaida-related activity by those in anti-terrorist circles who have studied his work and words. Qatada, who was released from prison last night on strict bail conditions including a 22-hour curfew, became one of the UK’s most wanted men in December 2001, when he went on the run on the eve of government moves to introduce new anti-terror laws allowing suspects to be detained without charge or trial. The 45-year-old father of five arrived in the UK in September 1993 on a forged United Arab Emirates passport. He was allowed to stay in June 1994 after claiming asylum for himself and his family. Qatada, also known as Omar Mahmoud Mohammed Othman, was said to have met with an MI5 officer and offered to cooperate to help prevent Islamist terrorism in the UK. But videos of his sermons were unearthed in a Hamburg flat used by some of those responsible for the September 11 attacks on the US. He is also believed to have been asked for religious advice by the would-be shoe bomber, Richard Reid, and Zacarias Moussaoui, who pleaded guilty in a US court to training for a “broader conspiracy” than 9/11 to use aircraft as weapons.http://themuslimweekly.com/newsdetails/fullstoryview.aspx?NewsID=5F0240F57EE6DD868D56ECB7&MENUID=HOMENEWS&DESCRIPTION=UK%20News
The home secretary, Jacqui Smith, last night expressed her “extreme disappointment” at the decision yesterday by three high court judges to order the release of the radical preacher Abu Qatada, who has been described as Osama bin Laden’s right-hand man in Europe. Qatada, who was still in Long Lartin maximum security prison in Worcestershire last night, is expected to be released next week, when bail conditions are expected to be agreed. It has already been agreed that at the minimum he will be placed under virtual house arrest and face a 22-hour curfew. Last month Qatada, a Jordanian, won his appeal against the government’s attempt to deport him on the grounds that he was likely to face a trial based on evidence obtained under torture by the Jordanian intelligence services. Alan Travis report.