12 Nov 2012

Terror suspect Abu Qatada granted bail

Abu Qatada, the radical Islamic cleric once described by a judge as Osama bin Laden’s right-hand man in Europe, is granted bail and is likely to be released tomorrow.

The decision, by the special immigration appeals commission, follows Qatada’s successful appeal against deportation to Jordan on terror charges.

Mr Justice Mitting said he should be released from prison tomorrow.

Home Secretary Theresa May said the government “strongly disagrees” with the ruling, would do everything it could to “get rid” of Qatada and intended to appeal.

She told the Commons the government’s lawyers would press for the “most restrictive” bail conditions possible.

Qatada, who has fought a long legal battle to remain in the UK, was convicted of terror charges in his absence in 1999.

The European court of human rights had prevented his extradition on the grounds that evidence obtained by the torture of other people could be used against him.

This was despite the fact that Theresa May had been given assurances by Jordan that this would not happen.

Qatada was allowed to stay in Britain in 1994, but the government has long wanted to remove him.

His legal team has consistently argued that that he would not receive a fair trial in Jordan, where he is wanted for allegedly conspiring to bomb western targets.

The brake on his deportation was approved today by the special immigration appeals commission, a court which deals with cases with national security implications.

Government ‘strongly disagrees’

A Home Office spokesman said: “The government strongly disagrees with this ruling. We have obtained assurances not just in relation to the treatment of Qatada himself, but about the quality of the legal processes that would be followed throughout his trial.

“Indeed, today’s ruling found that ‘the Jordanian judiciary, like their executive counterparts, are determined to ensure that the appellant will receive, and be seen to receive, a fair retrial’. We will therefore seek leave to appeal today’s decision.”

The commission heard evidence last month from Professor Beverley Milton-Edwards, who has studied Jordan’s political situation for 25 years.

She said then: “In my view I don’t believe there is any credible evidence that the state security court has engaged in a significant amount of reform to have any confidence of him having a fair trial.”

But lawyers for the government told the hearing that Qatada was “scraping the barrel” in his appeal against deportation.

Hate sermons

Qatada, who is said to have widespread support among extremists, featured in hate sermons found on videos in the flat of one of the 11 September bombers.

He has successfully challenged every attempt by the government over the last decade to put him on a plane.

In December 2001, Qatada became one of Britain’s most wanted men after going on the run from his home in west London.

In October 2002, he was arrested in south London and detained in Belmarsh high-security jail.