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British court releases radical Islamist cleric

Latest update : 2008-06-18

Omar Othman, a radical preacher of Jordanian origins also known as Abu Qatada, was released from a British jail under tight conditions after winning a lengthy court battle against his deportation to Jordan.

A Jordanian who defeated a British government attempt to deport him as a "significant international terrorist" was freed from prison on bail on Tuesday but confined to his home for 22 hours a day.

Omar Othman, known as Abu Qatada, was among the highest profile terrorism suspects in a British jail.

A special tribunal dealing with foreign terrorism suspects published a seven-page document setting stringent conditions for his release.

He is forbidden from using any mobile telephone or computer, or connecting in any way to the Internet, and may leave home only between 10 and 11 a.m. and 2 and 3 p.m.

The document sets out a list of individuals that he may not contact or receive visits from -- headed by al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and his number two, Ayman al-Zawahri.

Othman won a legal battle against being deported to Jordan when the Court of Appeal ruled in April he would not face a fair trial at home.

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said she was disappointed that he had been given bail and planned to appeal to reverse the decision to bar his deportation.

The ruling was a setback to Britain's efforts to expel suspected Islamist militants it sees as a threat to national security, but against whom it lacks sufficient evidence to mount a prosecution.

Civil rights groups have condemned the government's treatment of the men and its attempts to remove them to countries with poor human rights records.

Othman's lawyer declined to comment on the bail conditions, which also prevent him from attending a mosque and strictly limit visits to his home and meetings outside it.

Othman has denied belonging to al Qaeda, although Spanish judge Baltasar Garzon once described him as "Osama bin Laden's right-hand man in Europe".

The government case against him described Othman as a "significant international terrorist" whose presence posed "a continuing threat to national security and a significant terrorism-related risk to the public".

Twice convicted in absentia in Jordan of involvement in terrorist plots, he has been jailed in Britain pending deportation since August 2005. He was previously held without charge under powers that were declared unlawful.

Date created : 2008-06-18