Radical cleric 'was al-Qa'ida instigator'

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The Independent Online

Abu Qatada, the radical Muslim cleric, was one of the most senior figures in the UK in al-Qa'ida-related terrorist activities, according to a special tribunal's confidential report.

Abu Qatada, the radical Muslim cleric, was one of the most senior figures in the UK in al-Qa'ida-related terrorist activities, according to a special tribunal's confidential report.

The Special Immigrations Appeals Commission announced in January that Mr Qatada had lost his appeal to be freed from detention in Belmarsh prison, south-east London, as a suspected terrorist.

In the full ruling on the appeal, obtained by Channel 4 News and published on its website last night, it was revealed that Mr Qatada was interviewed three times by an MI5 officer in the mid-1990s before his views hardened in the wake of the 11 September terrorist attacks.

The commission's chairman, Mr Justice Collins, said there was sufficient evidence to conclude that Mr Qatada, a Jordanian who claimed asylum with his wife and three children in 1993, "has been concerned in the instigation of acts of international terrorism".

He stated: "The appellant [Mr Qatada] was heavily involved, indeed was at the centre in the UK of terrorist activities associated with al-Qa'ida. He is a truly dangerous individual."

From records of the first interview held in June 1996, it was noted: "He claimed to wield powerful spiritual influence over the Algerian community in London ... He said a decision had been taken in Algeria not to mount operations against the UK." The officer said that during the second meeting in December Mr Qatada "came the closest he had to offering to assist me in any investigation of Islamic extremism" and would "report anyone damaging the interests of this country". In February 1997, it was noted that Mr Qatada "revealed little love of the methodology and policies pursued by Osama bin Laden".

But he became more bellicose in the years after the interviews, particularly after the terror attacks in New York and Washington. The full ruling said: "He has assisted and encouraged many who have themselves espoused the al-Qa'ida approach and whom he knew or must have known to have been involved in terrorism."