Last Updated: Tue Feb 14, 2012 14:10 pm (KSA) 11:10 am (GMT)

Muslim cleric Abu Qatada released from UK jail

Abu Qatada, also known as Omar Othman, arrived in Britain in 1993 claiming asylum and has been fighting attempts to extradite him for more than six years. (File photo)
Abu Qatada, also known as Omar Othman, arrived in Britain in 1993 claiming asylum and has been fighting attempts to extradite him for more than six years. (File photo)

The cleric once described as Osama bin Laden's right-hand man in Europe was to be releasedd from prison in Britain, reports said Monday.

Abu Qatada, who is fighting extradition to Jordan, was released from Long Lartin high-security prison in Worcestershire, central England, and will have to obey a 22-hour-a-day curfew at his home in London.

Ahead of his release, the Home Office, or interior ministry, said it would “exhaust all avenues” to ensure his extradition to Jordan.

He has been convicted in absentia there of terrorist offenses related to two alleged bomb plots in 1999 and 2000, and would face a retrial there if deported from Britain.

Qatada, 51, also featured in hate sermons found on videos in the flat of one of the September 11 bombers.

But the European Court of Human Rights has ruled that Britain cannot deport the Jordanian to his homeland because evidence used against him in any trial there may have been obtained through torture.

A spokeswoman for the Home Office told AFP: “Everyone is united in wanting this man deported.

“This government will exhaust all avenues open to get Qatada on a plane. If we do so, we will continue to negotiate with the Jordanians to see what assurances we can be given about the evidence used against Qatada in their court.”

A junior Home Office minister, James Brokenshire, is travelling to Jordan this week after Prime Minister David Cameron spoke last week with King Abdullah II about finding an “effective solution” to the case.

Once released, Qatada will only be allowed outside his home for two one-hour periods a day, will not be able to visit a mosque, and is banned from using the telephone and the Internet.

The conditions also stipulate he must not lead prayers, give lectures, publish articles, preach or provide religious instruction or advice, “other than to his wife and children at his residence.”

He must also wear an electronic tag and non-family visitors to his home must be vetted beforehand by the security services.

The cleric, also known as Omar Othman, arrived in Britain in 1993 claiming asylum and has been fighting attempts to extradite him for more than six years, most of which he has spent in jail.

He has never been charged with a criminal offence in Britain.

Qatada, a Jordanian of Palestinian origin, was labeled a key bin Laden aide in Europe by a Spanish judge.



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