Abu Qatada Released From Prison
A radical cleric who poses a serious risk to the UK's national security was on bail today after spending six-and-a-half years in prison.
Abu Qatada was released last night under some of the toughest conditions imposed since the September 11 terror attacks.
The 51 year old, once described by a judge as Osama bin Laden's right-hand man in Europe, is banned from taking his youngest child to school, must stay inside his home for 22 hours a day, and cannot talk to anyone who has not been vetted by the security services first.
Qatada was driven from the high-security Long Lartin prison in Evesham, Worcestershire, where he has been held while fighting deportation.
He was released after applying for bail when human rights judges in Europe ruled he could not be deported without assurances from Jordan that evidence gained through torture would not be used against him.
Under the terms of his release, the Home Secretary has just three months to show the government is making significant progress in securing his deportation or risk Qatada being freed from his bail conditions.
Downing Street has stressed the government was considering "all the options" for removing Qatada "at the earliest opportunity".
Lawyers agreed the bail conditions as a Jordanian government minister said the country was working with the UK government to give the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) the assurances it needed.
Qatada will only be allowed outside his London home in a prescribed area for two one-hour periods each day - and he will be kept in during the school run, sources said.
A summary of the terms released by the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (Siac) showed he will be banned from meeting 27 people, including new al Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, radical cleric Abu Hamza, and terror suspect Babar Ahmad.
Qatada is also banned from using the internet and mobile phones, as well as meeting or communicating with anyone who is subject to Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures (Tpims), the government's replacement for control orders.
The bail terms also ban him from leading prayers, giving lectures or preaching, other than to offer advice to his wife and children at his home.
The cleric, who must wear an electronic tag and check in with the monitoring firm up to four times a day as he enters and leaves his home, is also prohibited from making any statement without the prior approval of the Home Secretary.
According to reports, up to 60 police officers will be required to monitor the freed cleric, at a cost of around £10,000 a week to the taxpayer.
London mayor Boris Johnson told the Sun: "I haven't cut crime and funded extra cops for the capital only to have a known danger draining that precious police resource in the run-up to the Olympics."
Ayman Odeh, the Jordanian legislative affairs minister, yesterday said the country had passed a constitutional amendment in September to ban the use of evidence obtained through torture.
"We are confident that once we have the chance to make this statement through the diplomatic channels... (it) will be taken into consideration," he told Sky News.
"We are now making the necessary arrangements to do such assurances through the British government. Very soon something will be done for this purpose."
According to the Daily Mail, Qatada's mother Aisha Othman has called for him to be sent back to Jordan.
"We want him home now," she told the newspaper, adding: "I don't know why the British keep him. There is no good reason."
Last week, Prime Minister David Cameron told King Abdullah of the "frustrating and difficult" position Britain was in over its efforts to deport the Islamist radical and Home Office Minister James Brokenshire is visiting the Jordanian capital, Amman, this week to continue talks.
But shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said: "It is clear the government has not done all it can to stop Abu Qatada being released from high-security prison today.
"In issues of national security, a more urgent and less cavalier approach is needed."
Qatada, also known as Omar Othman, was convicted in his absence in Jordan of involvement with terror attacks in 1998 and has 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.
Last month, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that sending Qatada back to face terror charges without assurances that evidence gained through torture would not be used against him would be a "flagrant denial of justice".
The ruling was the first time the court 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.
Former security minister Baroness Pauline Neville-Jones said Qatada posed a future risk rather than an immediate threat to the UK.
She told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: "He's unlikely to be much of a risk at the moment under that degree of surveillance, but what we know is that's not going to be a permanent situation if an agreement can't be somehow found within three months with the Jordanian government, so there's a long-term risk there.
"This is a man who... has a record of preaching real violence.
"Here's a man who wished death upon others and I'm less convinced that he's somehow been neutralised, so we must regard him as a threat."