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Radical cleric released from UK jail

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 6:14 PM EST, Mon February 13, 2012
  • Abu Qatada is released on bail
  • An immigration court ruled the government is running out of time to justify his detention
  • Government officials say he is a danger to national security

London (CNN) -- Abu Qatada, a radical Jordanian cleric described by authorities as an inspiration to September 11 hijacker Mohammed Atta and other terrorists, has been released from British jail on bail, a spokeswoman for the British Ministry of Justice said Monday.

Video on UK broadcaster ITN showed Qatada leaving the Long Lartin prison in a van.

Qatada, 51, has been jailed in Britain since 2005 while the government works to deport him to Jordan, where, after he sought asylum in the United Kingdom, he was convicted in absentia of involvement in terrorist conspiracies.

On Friday, an immigration court said the government was running out of time to justify Qatada's continued detention.

Radical cleric released from UK jail

Justice John Edward Mitting ordered Qatada released from jail under a restrictive set of conditions that requires him to stay in his home 22 hours a day, prohibits him from using computers, phones or other electronic communications, and limits visitors, according to a Home Office spokesman.

Mitting gave the government about three months to make progress or face being forced to release Qatada outright.

However, a January 17 ruling by the European Court of Human Rights said that deporting Qatada to Jordan would be a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights because of the likelihood that evidence gained from torture would be used against him. That would violate Qatada's right to a fair trial, the court ruled.

The British government is prepared to do everything in its power to ensure his deportation, the Home Office spokesman said.

"Everyone is united in wanting this man deported," said the spokesman, who declined to be named in line with policy. "This government will exhaust all avenues open to get Qatada on a plane. As we do so, we will continue to negotiate with the Jordanians to see what assurance we can be given about the evidence used against Qatada in their courts."

Home Office Minister James Brokenshire is visiting Amman, Jordan, to discuss the case with officials there, according to the British Press Association.

Qatada -- also known as Omar Othman -- arrived in the United Kingdom in 1993 and applied for asylum on the grounds that he had been tortured by Jordanian authorities. He came to the United Kingdom on a forged United Arab Emirates passport, according to court documents, and claimed asylum for himself, his wife and their three children.

The British government recognized him as a refugee and allowed him to stay in the country until 1998.

Qatada applied to stay indefinitely, but while his application was pending, a Jordanian court convicted him in absentia on charges related to two 1998 terrorist attacks and a plot to plant bombs to coincide with the millennium.

He was released briefly in 2005 after the repeal of the anti-terrorism law on which he was being held. British authorities ordered his renewed detention that year under the Prevention of Terrorism Act, according to the European Court of Human Rights.

The British government claims that Qatada is a national security risk who has raised money for terrorist groups, including organizations linked to Osama bin Laden, and has publicly supported the violent activities of those groups.

Qatada has denied the allegations.

CNN's Jonathan Wald contributed to this report.

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