Abu Qatada refused bail by UK court
From Aditi Khanna
London, May 20 (PTI) Abu Qatada, often referred to as Osama bin Laden''s point man in Europe, was refused bail today by a British judge, who ruled that the radical Muslim cleric remained a threat to the national security of the UK.
"There is no doubt about the national security threat which the appellant presents. The essence of that is the promulgation of his views in support of violence, and the potential effect of others of that promulgation," Justice Irwin said at a hearing of the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) here.
"He is highly intelligent, has a range of sympathetic and supportive contacts, and his risk to national security is undiminished. We reject his submission that he can, even now, be relied on to comply with his legal obligations and not abscond," the judge said.
Qatada is now expected to remain in high-security Belmarsh prison here until he returns to Jordan to stand trial on terror charges.
His lawyer had argued he should be freed from prison so he could spend time with his family before leaving the UK for Jordan, which he had agreed to do once the countries ratified a fair trial treaty.
The cleric, who has been repeatedly detained as an international terror suspect in prison in Britain over the past 12 years, faces a retrial for terror charges when he returns to Jordan.
SIAC was told that the British ambassador in Amman expected the Jordanian Parliament to ratify the "mutual legal agreement" within weeks.
Qatada''s legal team had informed UK home secretary Theresa May earlier this month of his decision to voluntarily leave for Jordan once such a treaty was ratified to ensure evidence obtained from torture is not used against him.
SIAC''s decision to refuse bail follows evidence that jihadist material and videos produced by "the media wing of al-Qaeda" were found on a USB stick during a police search of the cleric''s north-west London home when he was on a 17-hour curfew in March.
Police also found six illicit mobile phones and 55 rewriteable CDs/DVDs, in alleged breach of his bail conditions.
Robin Tam, for the home secretary, reminded the SIAC judges that they had once described him as "a truly dangerous man" and said there "was no reason to believe that was no longer true".
In 1999, the cleric was convicted of terrorism offences in his absence and sentenced to life imprisonment in Jordan.
The UK government has been trying unsuccessfully to deport him for nearly eight years.
The Home Office has welcomed the latest ruling, describing Abu Qatada as "a dangerous man".
"The best place for him is behind bars until he can be lawfully removed from this country. The government remains committed to securing his deportation as quickly as possible," a Home Office spokesperson said.