07 February 2012

UK immigration authorities still hopeful as radical cleric goes free

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UK immigration authorities remain committed to reaching an agreement with Jordan to deport Abu Qatada as the radical cleric, described as 'truly dangerous', prepares to be released back into the community.

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Abu Qatada has been described as 'truly dangerous' by UK judges.

Abu Qatada, real name Omar Othman, has been fighting UK immigration authorities over his deportation to Jordan, where he has been convicted in his absence of terror related offences, for nine years.

For the past six years, he has been held in detention without charge but Mr Justice Mitting, president of the UK's Special Immigration Appeals Commission, ruled that, as his deportation to Jordan had been blocked by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in January, he should be released within days.

The ECHR blocked Qatada's deportation as his legal team contended that the conviction against him was as a result of evidence obtained by the torture of others and he himself could face torture if he were to be returned there.

Attorney General Dominic Grieve said the Government was still attempting to clarify whether Qatada would be tried on evidence obtained by torture but that the UK could not legally keep Qatada in "indefinite internment without trial".

"The Government is obviously very concerned about this case, very much wishes to see Abu Qatada deported to Jordan and, when he's in Jordan, tried fairly if the Jordanian authorities wish to put him on trial," said Mr Grieves.

Mr Justice Mitting stipulated that the Government had three months to prove that an agreement with Jordan regarding Qatada's right to a fair trial in Jordan was progressing otherwise the strict bail conditions he recommended would be lifted.

While security experts have explained that this would not necessarily mean Qatada would not still be under heavy surveillance, the Home Office has said it disagrees with the decision to release Qatada and considers him a continuing threat to national security.

Abu Qatada is considered one of the most influential radical Islamic clerics in Europe and has previously been described as 'Osama Bin Laden's right hand man in Europe'. While he has vocally supported jihadist causes, he has been careful not to break any UK laws himself.

The cleric will be released on strict bail conditions which limit him to leaving the address twice a day for one hour at a time, restrictions on who can visit him and a ban on Internet access.

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