Abu Qatada to receive May bail hearing

May 22, 2012 at 6:30 AM
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LONDON, May 22 (UPI) -- Radical Islamic cleric Abu Qatada, fighting extradition from Britain to Jordan, will receive a bail hearing this month, a British judge has ruled.

Abu Qatada, whose birth name is Omar Mahmoud Othman, has been incarcerated since April at a high-security British prison as the government seeks to deport him to face terrorism charges in Jordan.

His legal battle to void the move on humanitarian grounds was dealt a blow this month when the European Court of Human Rights ruled Britain can deport him despite concerns Jordanian prosecutors could use tortured-obtained evidence against him.

The human rights court in Strasbourg, France, rejected his appeal May 9, bringing praise from British Home Secretary Theresa May.

"I am pleased by the European court's decision," she said. "The Qatada case will now go through the British courts. I am confident the assurances we have from Jordan mean we can put Qatada on a plane and get him out of Britain."

Amman has assured London that Othman, who was convicted in absentia of plotting 1998 bomb attacks against American and Israeli tourists, can get a fair retrial if returned.

Jordan has said all verdicts issued against him will be dropped and he will be retried. Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh told the BBC last week torture was banned under his country's constitution and that Othman could get a fair trial.

After the May 9 Strasbourg ruling, the cleric's lawyers quickly applied for bail, arguing political conditions in Jordan were changing. They were handed a victory Friday by Special Immigration Appeals Commission Judge John Mitting, who granted a May 28 bail hearing, The Telegraph reported.

Mitting said in a written statement he may grant Othman bail should the likelihood of a successful deportation remain a long way off, the report said.

"If it is obvious after two or three weeks have elapsed that deportation is not imminent … then I will reconsider basis of a more leisurely timetable than that necessarily required for a full-appeal to (British immigration officials)," the judge wrote.

A British Home Office spokesman told the BBC the government still believes Abu Qatada "poses a real risk to national security and will continue vigorously to resist any application for him to be bailed."

Al-Qaida insurgents last month offered to release a British hostage in exchange for allowing Othman to avoid extradition.

Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb said it wouldn't release Stephen Malcolm, held hostage since November, unless the British government agrees to let Qatada chose his own destination, The Sun reported.

Malcolm was kidnapped in Timbuktu, Mali, and is believed to be one of nine Europeans abducted in Mali and Niger since September 2010.

"The initiative to the British government is to release its citizen Stephen Malcolm, who also has South African nationality, if it deports Abu Qatada to one of the 'Arab Spring' countries. If Britain ignores this offer, it will bear the consequences of handing Abu Qatada to the Jordanian government," Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb said in a statement.

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