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Abu Qatada loses freedom bid


Radical preacher Abu Qatada lost his latest bid for freedom today.

Two judges at the High Court in London rejected his challenge against his continuing detention by Home Secretary Theresa May.

The Special Immigration Appeals Commission (Siac) ruled two months ago that the detention of Qatada, who is fighting deportation to Jordan, was lawful.

Leaving him free during heightened security for the 2012 Olympics would be "exceptionally problematic", a judge said.

Lord Justice Hughes, sitting with Mr Justice Silber, said the court was "quite satisfied" that Qatada's judicial review application should be dismissed.

After the decision was announced, lawyers for Qatada indicated they would consider taking the case to the Court of Appeal once they have seen the court's reasons for its ruling.

Qatada, referred to in court as Omar Mahmoud Othman, was seeking bail while he fights deportation.

After today's ruling, a Home Office spokeswoman said: "Qatada is a dangerous man and we are pleased the High Court has agreed that he should remain behind bars."

The intention is to remove him "as quickly as possible".

The spokeswoman said: "We are confident the assurances we have secured from the Jordanian government will allow us to do that."

Qatada challenged a decision by a Siac judge in May that his detention remained lawful and that releasing him during the Olympics would be "exceptionally problematic" as the security services - already under pressure from the Games - would have difficulty supervising him.

During today's High Court hearing, his lawyers said the Islamic cleric had been detained for seven years.

It was "the longest period of administrative detention, so far as we know, in modern English history," said Edward Fitzgerald QC.

"Our submission is that the detention has already gone on for so long as to be disproportionate and unlawful."

Government counsel Robin Tam QC said Qatada was described in one court judgment as "a truly dangerous individual" who was at the centre in the UK of terrorist activities associated with al Qaida.

The national security basis for his continued detention was well proved, argued Mr Tam.

Siac was in the best position to know what had been said about Qatada at different times over the years, he said.

In recent bail submissions there had been references to threats made by the al Qaida high command this spring.

There was also a real risk that Qatada would, if granted bail, "abscond and go to ground".