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Court Cases

Muslim cleric wins appeal against deportation

Abu Qatada, a radical Muslim cleric, will be freed on bail after winning an appeal against his planned deportation to Jordan. He will be freed on the grounds that he would not receive a fair trial.

** FILE ** In this Oct. 19, 2001 file photo, extremist preacher Abu Qatada, whose real name is Omar Mahmoud Mohammed Othman, is seen at his north London home. Qatada, once described as Osama bin Laden's ambassador in Europe, can be deported to Jordan, Britain's highest court ruled Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2009. (ddp images/AP Photo/file) ** UNITED KINGDOM OUT NO SALES TV OUT INTERNET OUT **

Abu Qatada

Radical Muslim cleric Abu Qatada won a last-minute appeal on Monday against deportation from Britain to face terrorism charges in Jordan. The ruling is a blow to the Conservative-led government that says he is a huge security risk.

Qatada said his trial might be skewed by evidence obtained using torture, a claim upheld in a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights.

The decision by the Special Immigration Appeals Commission was made despite lengthy negotiations with Jordan to obtain "assurances" that evidence gained through torture would not be used in a future trial.

The commission is a semi-secret court dealing with national security deportations in Britain, where some of the sensitive material cannot be disclosed to the public.

Despite the setback, Home Secretary Theresa May told parliament Monday that the government would seek a further appeal, as it continued to try to "get rid" of Qatada.

"Qatada is a dangerous man, a suspected terrorist, who is accused of serious crime in his home country of Jordan," said May.

Jordan's acting information minister, Nayef al-Fayez, said in a statement that his government "shares the British government's disappointment and concern."

Links to al Qaeda

Qatada, a Palestinian-Jordanian, has been described as a "national security threat" by May, who on Monday stressed the cleric's "long-standing association with al Qaeda."

The cleric, who is also known as Omar Othman, first came to Britain in 1993 and has spent almost eight years fighting extradition, during which time he has been in and out of prison in Britain.

In the past Qatada has held fiery speeches to supporters in Britain, expressing backing for the al Qaeda terrorist network and urging the "killing of Jews." He is also believed to have played a major role in influencing the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks on the United States.

He will be released on Tuesday under bail conditions that include a 16-hour curfew at his London home.

hc/jm (dpa, AFP, Reuters)