Radical cleric Abu Qatada to be released from prison today

07:14 13 November 2012

Abu Qatada was fighting extradition to Jordan. File picture: PA Wire

Abu Qatada was fighting extradition to Jordan. File picture: PA Wire

Radical cleric Abu Qatada is to be released from prison today after winning his bid against deportation to Jordan.

The terror suspect, who has been fighting extradition for more than 10 years, is to be released on bail after judges yesterday approved his appeal against deportation to the Middle East country to stand trial.

The Special Immigration Appeals Commission (Siac) allowed Qatada’s appeal, saying despite assurances to Home Secretary Theresa May, it could not be sure that evidence from witnesses who had been tortured would not be included in a retrial in the Middle East country.

Mrs May has vowed that the government will continue to fight to “get rid” of Qatada, who lives in Brent, and told the House of Commons that the Home Office will appeal against Siac’s decision.

Qatada, once described as Osama bin Laden’s right-hand man in Europe, will be released from maximum security prison HMP Long Lartin near Evesham, Worcestershire, following yesterday’s ruling.

He will return to his home address - although he is said to be planning to move with his family.

He will be subject to a 16-hour curfew and allowed out between 8am and 4pm, with conditions including wearing an electronic tag, not using the internet, and not contacting certain people.

The cleric was convicted of terror charges in Jordan in his absence in 1999.

Jordan has given the Home Secretary assurances that no evidence gained through torture will be used against him but Siac judges said they could not be sure this would be the case.

Mrs May told MPs yesterday: “Qatada is a dangerous man, a suspected terrorist, who is accused of serious crime in his home country of Jordan.

“The British Government has obtained from the Jordanian government 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. We will therefore seek leave to appeal today’s decision.”

She added: “The government has been doing everything it can to get rid of Abu Qatada and we will continue to do so.”

Mrs May described a European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruling, which prevented Qatada’s deportation earlier this year, as “deeply unsatisfactory” and accused the Strasbourg court of “moving the goalposts” for governments trying to deport dangerous foreign nationals.

Qatada featured in hate sermons found on videos in the flat of one of the September 11 bombers.

He has so far thwarted every attempt by the government over the last decade to deport him, in a battle thought to have cost at least £420,000.

Siac judges ruled that evidence from his former co-defendants Abu Hawsher and Al-Hamasher, said to have been obtained by torture, could possibly be used against him in a retrial.

They said: “The Secretary of State has not satisfied us that, on a retrial, there is no real risk that the impugned statements of Abu Hawsher and Al-Hamasher would be admitted probatively against the appellant,” they said.

The cleric’s solicitor Gareth Peirce welcomed the ruling, saying: “It is important to reaffirm this country’s position that we abhor the use of torture and a case that was predicated upon evidence from witnesses who have been tortured is rejected - rejected by the courts of this country as by the European Court.

“We clearly agree with the decision, but it is important to emphasise the fundamental rules of law that we subscribe to. To that extent, it is important for other cases, not just for this case.”

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