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Abu Qatada Released 'Smiling' From Long Lartin Prison After Ten Years

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Radical cleric Abu Qatada smiled as he was released from jail on Tuesday after winning the latest round in his battle against extradition.

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Qatada smiles as he leaves prison

The Terror suspect was driven away from the maximum security prison HMP Long Lartin in Worcestershire in a black Volkswagen people carrier.

The heavily-bearded radical preacher, who was sitting in the rear of the vehicle, made no attempt to hide from waiting media cameras and appeared to be smiling.

On Monday judges approved his appeal against deportation to Jordan to stand trial.

The Special Immigration Appeals Commission (Siac) said that despite assurances from the Arab kingdom, it could not be sure that evidence from witnesses who had been tortured would not be included in a retrial in his homeland.

Home Secretary Theresa May, who travelled to Jordan earlier this year in a bid to pave the way for Qatada's deportation, has vowed that the Government will continue to fight to "get rid" of him and told MPs on Monday the Home Office will appeal against Siac's decision.

Qatada, once described as Osama bin Laden's right-hand man in Europe, is expected to return to his home address in London - 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.

Mrs May told MPs on Monday: "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."

long lartin prison

Long Lartin prison in Worcestershire, where Abu Qatada was held until Tuesday

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, who is said to have wide and high-level support among extremists, 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 to deport him.

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

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 despite the assurances from the Jordanian government.

"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 home affairs committee chairman Keith Vaz last night said the case had cost taxpayers £1m.

He said: "At the moment, it looks pretty farcical that a very dangerous man is now put on bail having gone through the court system for seven years and having cost the taxpayer £1 million."

Vaz added: "What we need to do is study the judgment carefully and to try to persuade the Jordanians to do the only thing that the courts wanted them to which is to strengthen the Jordanian criminal code."

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper backed plans to appeal against the "extremely serious and worrying judgment", but said Mrs May needed to get Qatada's deportation "back on track".

But 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."

One of Qatada's neighbours said he had only ever seen him twice, when he was praying at home.

He said: "If I didn't know about this (the terrorism allegations) I might have knocked on his door. But when I came to know, (I thought) no way."

When asked what he felt about the large pack of photographers waiting outside, he replied: "It's very annoying for the whole community.

"My daughter and wife can't come out when it's this situation."

Prime Minister David Cameron's official spokesman said: "The Home Office will be ensuring that we take all the steps necessary to ensure that Qatada does not present a risk to national security."

The spokesman confirmed that the Government believes yesterday's tribunal ruling was based on the application of the wrong legal test.

He said that the issue will be raised in future discussions with the Jordanian authorities.

"We had received a number of assurances from the Jordanian government - they had even changed their constitution," said the spokesman. "As the Home Secretary said, we will be appealing the judgment.

"We believe that we have got the right assurances from the Jordanian government."

Muslim Cleric Abu Qatada Is Released From Prison
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