Controversial radical preacher Abu Qatada, once described as Osama bin Laden's "right-hand man" in Europe and being held in a high-security British jail for six-and-a-half years without trial, is to be freed after a judge granted him bail — provoking fury in government circles.
The bail came days after the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) knocked down the British government's bid to deport him to his native Jordan, where he faces prosecution on charges of terrorism. The court overruled British judges who had ordered his deportation describing him as “truly dangerous” for Britain's national security. The court ruled that if he was deported he was likely to be tried on the basis of evidence obtained under torture.
Home Office said it would make fresh attempts to secure assurance from Jordan that such evidence will not be used against Mr. Qatada.
Attorney-General Dominic Grieve told the BBC that the government was working with Jordan to resolve the issue flagged up by the European court. “That's the issue which the government is currently trying to see if it can resolve satisfactorily,” he said, adding: "The government is obviously very concerned about this case, very much wishes to see Abu Qatada deported to Jordan and, when he's in Jordan, tried fairly if the Jordanian authorities wish to put him on trial."
Under an existing agreement, Jordan has assured Britain that Mr. Qatada would not be tortured. But the European court pointed out that this did not rule out the possibility of torture-tainted evidence being used against him.
Mr. Qatada, whose real name is Omar Othman, fled to Britain in 1993 after claiming that he was tortured by Jordanian authorities. He was convicted in absentia for his alleged involvement in two major terrorism plots in Jordan but he claimed that the convictions were based on evidence obtained by torturing his co-defendants.
He is to be freed under strict bail conditions with his movements heavily restricted. But the judge said that the bail restrictions could be lifted if within three months the government was not able "to put before me evidence of demonstrable progress in negotiating sufficient assurances with the Government of Jordan" regarding his extradition.