"Osama bin Laden’s right-hand man in Europe" freed on bail in U.K.


A firebrand preacher once described as “Osama bin Laden’s right-hand man in Europe” is due to be freed within days after being granted bail by an immigration tribunal.

Abu Qatada

Abu Qatada came to Britain in 1993

Abu Qatada, who last month defeated the Government’s efforts to deport him to Jordan on terror charges, will be subject to a 22-hour curfew when he is released from Long Lartin high-security prison.

Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, said she was “extremely disappointed” at the decision and promised “all steps necessary to protect the public”.

Some of the bail money is thought to have been put up by Norman Kember, the Christian peace worker who was held hostage in Baghdad for four months from November 2005 by a group of insurgents. Qatada had made a video appeal for his release.

The bail decision by the Special Immigration Advisory Tribunal is a fresh blow to the Government’s anti-terror policies.

Last month, the Home Office was forced to abandon plans to deport 12 Libyan fanatics, leaving a memorandum of understanding with Libya, signed in October 2005, effectively in tatters.

The rulings mean that not a single international terrorist has been forcibly removed from this country. Nearly three years after the 7/7 attacks, the only Islamic extremists to depart are eight Algerians who left voluntarily.

Qatada 45, has been convicted in his absence in Jordan of involvement with terror attacks in 1998 and of plotting to plant bombs at the Millennium.

The radical cleric once called on British Muslims to martyr themselves, and tapes of his sermons were found in a flat in Germany used by some of the September 11 hijackers.

Mrs Smith said: “Public safety is our main priority and we will take all steps necessary to protect the public. We will ensure that necessary steps are taken to ensure the safety of the public.

“I am already seeking to appeal the Court of Appeal’s decision that it is not safe to deport Qatada and we will continue with deportation action with this and the other Jordanian cases.”

Qatada could be freed within days and it is thought he will return to his family, who are understood to be living in Acton, West London.

Once he has been released, the Jordanian father-of-five, can expect to receive £1,000 a month in benefit payments. The taxpayer will also face a bill of tens of thousands of pounds to keep the cleric under 24-hour watch.

David Davis, the Shadow Home Secretary, said: “This whole situation totally undermines the Government’s assurances that memoranda of understanding are the solution to deporting terror suspects.

“The Government should at last answer our calls to focus on prevention and prosecution rather than just trying to deport these individuals once they are here.”

Anejem Choudary, a former senior member of extreme Muslim group Al-Muhajiroun and the lieutenant to self-styled radical cleric Omar Bakri, said the freeing of Qatada was “excellent news”.

He said:“I think the decision is absolutely correct. He was a victim of total oppression and what happened to him was wrong. There’s no reason at all why he should have been held in custody in the first place.

“He deserves not only an apology but compensation. He’s a recognised Muslim scholar and he’s never been prosecuted for any offences.

“I believe he deserves compensation for all his suffering. ”

When Qatada was arrested by anti-terrorism police officers in February 2001, he had £170,000 cash in his possession, including £805 in an envelope marked “For the Mujahedin in Chechnya”.

However he went on the run in December 2001 when new laws were brought in that allowed terror suspects to be detained without charge or trial.

Qatada became one of Britain’s most wanted men. Over six feet tall and weighing more than 20 stone, he was an unlikely fugitive but he avoided capture for 10 months.

Qatada, whose real name is Omar Mahmoud Mohammed Othman, was finally arrested in an armed raid on a council house in south London in October 2002 and held in Belmarsh prison in south east London.

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