Mon, Mar 11, 2013 - Page 6 News List

Radical cleric Abu Qatada sent back to British jail

BACK BEHIND BARS:A Spanish judge once said Abu Qatada was Osama bin Laden’s right-hand man in Europe, although he denies ever having met the al-Qaeda leader

AFP, LONDON

Radical Muslim cleric Abu Qatada arrives back at his home in London after being released on bail on Nov. 13 last year.

Photo: Reuters

Jordanian terror suspect Abu Qatada was on Saturday sent back to prison by a British judge, just two days before the government was due to make a fresh bid to deport him.

The radical cleric was found to have breached the conditions of his bail granted in November last year.

“The appellant’s bail is revoked forthwith, and he is ordered to be detained,” judge Stephen Irwin said in an order, adding that Abu Qatada would be detained at the high-security Belmarsh prison in southeast London.

Abu Qatada, 52, had been rearrested at his home in north London by officials from the UK Border Agency on Friday.

His case was then assessed in an urgent telephone hearing on Saturday before a judge of the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC).

The judge said there was “strong prima facie evidence” that Abu Qatada had breached a bail condition that banned him from having mobile phones switched on in his house while he was there.

It also bans digital media devices, rewritable CDs or pen drives from being brought into his house.

Another bail hearing will be held on March 21, the judge said.

A spokesman for Britain’s Judicial Office said that the hearing would give “both sides the opportunity to submit more evidence in the matter.”

The British Home Office, or interior ministry, said it was “pleased” about the decision to revoke Abu Qatada’s bail for “serious” breaches of his bail conditions.

Successive British governments have been trying for a decade to deport Abu Qatada, whose real name is Omar Mohammed Othman, to Jordan.

Abu Qatada was convicted in absentia in Jordan of involvement in terror attacks in 1998.

Lawyers for British Home Secretary Theresa May will today challenge a ruling by the SIAC that Abu Qatada cannot be deported over fears that evidence obtained through torture could be used against him in any retrial.

The cleric was released on bail following last year’s ruling, causing huge frustration in London.

Under the terms of his release last year, Abu Qatada was placed under a curfew and only allowed to leave his home between 8am and 4pm. He also had to wear an electronic tag, and restrictions were placed on who he could meet.

Abu Qatada arrived in Britain in 1993 claiming asylum and has been a thorn in the side of successive British governments.

A Spanish judge once branded him the right-hand man in Europe of bin Laden, although Abu Qatada denies ever having met the late al-Qaeda leader.

British Prime Minister David Cameron voiced his frustration after the cleric’s release last year, saying he was “completely fed up with the fact that this man is still at large in our country.”

Britain initially detained Abu Qatada in 2002 under anti-terror laws imposed in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, but he was released under house arrest.

A decade of court battles followed to first keep him behind bars and then remove him from Britain.

The European Court of Human Rights ruled last year that he could not be deported while there was a “real risk that evidence obtained by torture will be used against him” in any retrial.

The home secretary ordered his extradition anyway after Jordan gave assurances that he would be treated fairly.

However, the SIAC, which is a semi-secret panel of British judges that deals with national security matters, blocked the move and he was freed on bail.

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