Qatada stays in custody as High Court rejects judicial review

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The Independent Online

The controversial Muslim cleric Abu Qatada will remain behind bars after his latest bid for freedom was rejected by the High Court yesterday.

Edward Fitzgerald, QC, argued that to keep the radical preacher jailed – the longest administrative detention in modern history – was unlawful.

The man once described as Osama bin Laden's right-hand man in Europe has been detained for seven years, fighting extradition to his native Jordan where he faces a retrial after being convicted in his absence of involvement in terror attacks.

Insisting that it would be "at least" a year before he was deported, Mr Fitzgerald said: "Our submission is that the detention has already gone on for so long as to be disproportionate and unlawful."

But Lord Justice Hughes, sitting with Mr Justice Silber, said they were "quite satisfied" that they should reject his plea for a judicial review and his challenge to his continued detention.

In April Qatada lost his attempt to make a final appeal to the European Court and was taken back into custody, having been under effective house arrest. The Home Secretary Theresa May said she was confident he would soon be "out of Britain for good".

The preacher had claimed he faced torture if deported to Jordan but the Government said it had received satisfactory assurances from the country that he would receive a fair trial.

Yesterday the 52-year-old – also known as Omar Mahmoud Othman – was challenging a decision by a Special Immigration Appeals Commission (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.

Robin Tam, QC, described him as "a truly dangerous individual" who was at the centre of UK terrorist activities associated with al-Qa'ida. If granted bail, there was a real risk he would "abscond and go to ground", having already disappeared once, in 2001.

Last night a Home Office spokeswoman said the intention was to remove him "as quickly as possible".

She added: "Qatada is a dangerous man and we are pleased the High Court has agreed that he should remain behind bars."

Lawyers for Qatada indicated they would be considering taking the case to the Court of Appeal.