Cleric Abu Qatada held for 'breaching British bail'

9th March 2013, Comments 0 comments

Radical cleric Abu Qatada, once dubbed Osama bin Laden's right-hand man in Europe, has been arrested in London for allegedly breaching his bail conditions, officials and media said Saturday.

The arrest by the UK Border Agency came just days ahead of the British government's latest bid to try to deport Abu Qatada to Jordan, where he was convicted in absentia of involvement in terror attacks in 1998.

Lawyers for Home Secretary Theresa May will on Monday challenge a November ruling by the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) that Abu Qatada could not deported over fears that evidence obtained through torture could be used against him.

The cleric was released on bail following the ruling, causing huge frustration in London, where successive governments have been trying to send the Jordanian home for a decade.

"The UK Border Agency arrested a 52-year-old man from north London for alleged breaches of his bail conditions imposed by the Special Immigration Appeals Commission," a spokesman for the Home Office interior ministry said.

He added that the breach will be considered by the commission at the earliest opportunity.

The Home Office did not name the man in line with official policy, but The Sun newspaper published photographs of Abu Qatada being led away by officials on Friday.

The tabloid also reported that the Islamist cleric's London home had been raided by police on Thursday. Police confirmed they had carried out a number of searches of addresses in the capital.

Under the terms of his release on bail last year, Abu Qatada was placed under a curfew and only allowed to leave his home between 8:00am and 4:00pm. He also had to wear an electronic tag, and restrictions were placed on who he could meet.

Abu Qatada, whose real name is Omar Mohammed Othman, arrived in Britain in 1993 claiming asylum and has been a thorn in the side of successive British governments.

A Spanish judge once branded him the right-hand man of bin Laden in Europe, although Abu Qatada denies ever having met the late Al-Qaeda leader.

Prime Minister David Cameron voiced his frustration after the cleric's release in November, saying he was "completely fed up with the fact that this man is still at large in our country".

Britain initially detained Abu Qatada in 2002 under anti-terror laws imposed in the wake of 9/11 but he was released under house arrest, sparking a ten-year battle to send him to Jordan.

The European Court of Human Rights ruled last year that he could not be deported while there was a "real risk that evidence obtained by torture will be used against him" in any retrial.

Home Secretary Theresa May ordered his extradition anyway after Jordan gave assurances that he would be treated fairly.

But SIAC, a semi-secret panel of British judges that deals with national security matters, blocked the move and he was freed on bail.

© 2013 AFP

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