Jordanian terror suspect Abu Qatada, who was once described as Osama bin Laden’s right-hand man in Europe, is denied bail because of security fears during the Olympic Games.
Mr Justice Mitting said that allowing the radical preacher free on London’s streets would be “exceptionally problematic” during heightened security at the 2012 Games, when there would be a “very high level of demand in resources”
Qatada, who is fighting deportation and faces a retrial in Jordan on terror charges, will remain in the UK for at least four months until his lawyers appeal the government’s bid to deport him.
At a bail hearing on Monday, lawyers for Qatada said they needed until September to collect their evidence, further delaying repeated attempts by the Home Office to deport the radical cleric. Arguing for Qatada’s right to be released, his lawyers said that remaining in jail for another six months until a hearing was a breach of his human rights and asked that he be released on a 22-hour curfew as per previous bail conditions.
Qatada did not appear in court and is being held in a high-security prison.
Edward Fitzgerald QC, representing Qatada, told the special immigration appeals commission (Siac) that the case would need a significant amount of time to prepare but that they had significant evidence that if deported, Qatada would be tried in Jordan using evidence obtained by torture, despite assurances from the Jordanian government.
Robin Tam QC, lawyer for the Home Office, argued that the proceedings would be “straightforward” and said that they did not want the case to be dragged out.
The presiding judge, Mr Justice Mitting, said that another hearing could take place on 24 July, but that the full tribunal would take place mid-October with a decision due one month later.
He added: “This case has gone on for an unconscionable amount of time and must be brought to a conclusion one way or another.”
Mr Fitzgerald confirmed that that Qatada’s fight against deportation would be taken back to the European courts if the Sica rules against him.
He also cast doubt on evidence taken in Jordan against Qatada before highlighting allegations that the country’s previous leader had been “window dressing”, while the secret services retained control of the country.
Qatada’s 10-year battle against deportation to Jordan is in the hands of the British courts after the 51-year-old lost his attempt to make a final appeal to Europe’s human rights judges earlier this month.
The political situation in Jordan has also worsened in recent months, casting fresh doubt on the UK’s ability to deport him, they claim.
Repeated failed attempts by UK governments to deport the radical cleric have cost nearly £1m in legal fees, government figures show.
No figures have been given for how much Qatada has received in legal aid and some estimates put the cost of keeping Qatada in the UK, either in a high-security jail or closely monitored under strict conditions in the community, along with the legal costs of the fight to deport him, at more than £3m.
Qatada, who is said to have wide and high-level support among extremists, was convicted in his absence in Jordan of involvement with terror attacks in 1998 and faces a retrial in his home country.
He also featured in hate sermons found on videos in the flat of one of the 11 September bombers.
Since 2001, when fears of the domestic terror threat rose in the aftermath of the attacks, he has challenged, and ultimately thwarted, every attempt by the government to detain and deport him.