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.
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.
A lack of Muslim and Arabic-speaking staff at a British jail that detains terrorism suspects is creating a security risk because they could not understand what inmates were discussing, a government report has revealed. Despite staff working at Long Lartin prison’s specialist terrorism unit insisting such culture training was essential, authorities had yet to introduce any sufficient education, a report by the prisons’ chief inspector found. Anne Owers’ report said that while managers had “taken steps to raise cultural awareness” – with visits to mosques and funding Arabic lessons – it was a small step “given the size of the cultural and language gaps”. The report concluded that security and care was balanced, but that could change because of the lack of Arabic-speaking and Muslim officers. The specialist unit at the Worcestershire prison was created in May 2005 and can hold up to 20 detainees who have not been charged with offences, but are believed to be “involved in terrorist international activity and are said to be a threat to national security”.
The lawyer for a Muslim preacher fighting extradition from the UK has denied her client has been preaching hate to fellow inmates. Abu Qatada, who once preached at the Finsbury Park mosque in north London, is being held at a specialist unit at Long Lartin jail in Worcestershire. A prison union has said he could be radicalising other inmates via prayers. Qatada’s lawyer Gareth Peirce said that Qatada, also known as Omar Othman, did not preach to other inmates. Steve Gough, vice-chairman of the Prison Officers Association, has warned that Qatada could be using prayer meetings for indoctrinating the next generation of terrorists, as guards were unable to decipher what he was saying.