Abu Qatada freed – but banned from leading prayers


The radical cleric Abu Qatada was freed from prison last night as the Government was accused of being impotent and cavalier with national security.

Earlier, at the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (Siac), Mr Justice Mitting set some of the strictest bail conditions available for a man described as a "truly dangerous individual".

Qatada will be under house arrest for 22 hours a day, banned from any internet or telephone use, only allowed approved visitors such as his wife and children and will not be able to collect them from school following his release.

The man described as al-Qa'ida's spiritual leader in Europe will also be banned from: leading prayers, giving lectures and preaching other than to offer advice to his wife and children at his home; making any statement without the prior approval of the Home Secretary; and making any statement "that he has reason to believe is likely to be published".

Should he meet an acquaintance in a "genuinely chance situation" he "must, after any initial greeting, disengage himself from the situation (whether by explaining the terms of his bail order or by making an excuse)".

Qatada, 51, has been held for six-and-a-half years while fighting deportation to Jordan after he was convicted in his absence of involvement in terror attacks. The Siac last week agreed that he should be released after a European Court of Human Rights ruling that he could not be deported without assurances from Jordan that evidence gained through torture would not be used against him.

The Government vowed to do everything in its power to see him deported to Jordan.

Meanwhile, the Jordanian Legislative Affairs Minister Ayman Odeh said yesterday the country had passed constitutional amendments to ban the use of evidence obtained through torture and was working with the UK Government to give the ECHR the assurances it needed.

Qatada has a map setting out a precise boundary of the streets where he is allowed to go outside his house in west London and he will need approval to meet with anyone.

Any serious breach will see him arrested. Under his bail conditions,

he is banned from meeting or communicating with 27 named individuals, including Osama bin Laden's successor, Ayman al-Zawahiri.

The Home Secretary has three months to show progress in securing Qatada's deportation or risk him being freed from his bail conditions.