Abu Qatada, Bin Laden's 'Right-Hand Man', To Be Released On Bail 'In Days'
Radical Muslim cleric Abu Qatada will be released on bail within days, an immigration judge has ruled.
In a strongly worded statement, the Home Office criticised the decision to release Abu Qatada, the radical cleric once described as "Bin Laden's right hand man." A spokesperson said:
"This is a dangerous man who we believe poses a real threat to our security and who has not changed in his views or attitude to the UK.
"We have argued for the strictest possible bail conditions to be imposed on Qatada, because this government will take all necessary measures to protect national security. This is not the end of the road and we are continuing to consider our legal options in response to the European Court's ruling.”
Abu Qatada, who is being held in the high security Long Lartin jail in Worcestershire, is to be set free with stringent bail conditions, Mr Justice Mitting told the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (Siac).
Qatada is expected to be released next week.
The bail conditions will be similar to those set in 2008, with Qatada confined to his home for all but two one-hour periods each day.
He will also be allowed to take one of his children to school.
Mr Justice Mitting said it would take "between a few days and about a week" for the Security Service (MI5) to check the proposed bail address, which was not revealed by the court, before Qatada can be released.
The judge also ruled that the Home Secretary has three months to show progress is being made in negotiations with Jordan or restrictions on Qatada's liberty may not be acceptable any longer.
Earlier Qatada's lawyers argued that the radical Muslim cleric once described by a Spanish judge as "Bin Laden's right hand man in Europe" should be released regardless of the risk to Britain's national security.
He had made the appeal to be released on bail after European human rights judges ruled he could not be deported to Jordan without assurances that evidence gained through torture would not be used against him.
Lawyers for home secretary Theresa May battled to keep him behind bars, while British diplomats sought assurances from the Jordanian authorities that evidence gained through torture would not be used against him.
Ed Fitzgerald QC, representing Qatada, told an immigration judge in central London that Qatada had now been held for six-and-a-half years while fighting deportation.
He told the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (Siac) that that was "against a background of almost nine years detention without charges on the grounds of national security".
Mr Fitzgerald said: "The detention has now gone on for too long to be reasonable or lawful and there is no prospect of the detention ending in any reasonable period.
"However the risk of absconding, however the risk of further offending, there comes a point when it's just too long."
Mr Fitzgerald added that the eight-and-a-half years Qatada spent in custody was equivalent to a 17-year jail sentence.
The bail hearing was ordered after Qatada, won an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) last month.
Human rights judges ruled last month that sending Qatada back to face terror charges without assurances that evidence gained through torture would not be used against him would deny him his right to a fair trial and be a "flagrant denial of justice".
Qatada's defence team said he has been kept behind bars for more than six years already and should be released.
The ruling last month was the first time that the Strasbourg-based court has found an extradition would be in violation of Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights, the right to a fair trial, which is enshrined in UK law under the Human Rights Act.
The Henry Jackson Society think-tank said the ruling "undermines national security" while former home secretary David Blunkett warned Qatada was "extraordinarily dangerous and we don't want him on our streets".
Qatada, also known as Omar Othman, 51, featured in hate sermons found on videos in the flat of one of the September 11 bombers.
Since 2001, when fears of the domestic terror threat rose in the aftermath of the attacks, he has challenged, and ultimately thwarted, every attempt by the Government to detain and deport him.
Law Lords ruled almost three years ago that he could be sent back to Jordan and Lord Phillips, now president of the Supreme Court - the highest court in the land - said torture in another country does not require the UK "to retain in this country, to the detriment of national security, a terrorist suspect".
But the human rights court went against that judgment, agreeing with the earlier 2008 decision of the Court of Appeal which said there were reasonable grounds for believing he would be denied a fair trial in Jordan.
But Tim Eicke QC, for the home secretary, said Mrs May did not accept that Qatada's detention was unlawful.
The length of detention "has to be weighed against the risks" and "he poses a particularly serious risk to the UK".
"The secretary of state has also taken all steps to diligently try to achieve removal and deportation as soon as possible."