Abu Qatada will be able to preach while incarcerated at Jordanian prison - Middle East - World - The Independent

Abu Qatada will be able to preach while incarcerated at Jordanian prison

'He is treated just like any other guest, and has no restrictions imposed on him,' says official at Muwaqqar facility

Muwaqqar, Jordan

Abu Qatada will be able to preach while incarcerated, prison officials said at the Muwaqqar facility where the firebrand preacher is currently being held.

Inmates are referred to as guests, “like we're talking about a hotel where we provide them with services,” say staff at Jordan's smartest prison, the Muwaqqar Rehabilitation and Correctional Center.

The sunlit facility is dotted by artwork made by inmates; green landscapes with rivers, as well as nationalistic artwork proclaiming “Jordan first” feature heavily. Flowerbeds bloom next to the concrete and punctured footballs hang in the barbed wire surrounding the buildings.

“It is better for him here than in Britain” said Abd al Hamid Gamil AlKafawin, one of the prison officials. “Here he is treated just like any other guest, and has no restrictions imposed on him.”

He is also allowed visits by his family three times a week; on Tuesday his mother and 8 of his siblings visited Abu Qatada, though they could only communicate by telephone from behind a glass screen.

They hope to have him home soon, and his lawyer Taiseer Thaib has requested bail. “I presented the bail on Monday but we have to wait until next week to hear if it is granted” said Thaib, who saw the sheikh this morning and said he was 'comfortable.'

Contrary to initial reports that he would be kept in solitary confinement,

Abu Qatada is sharing a cell with 15 inmates. His cell, furnished by 12 bunk beds lining the walls, can accommodate up to 26. Many of the 950 inmates, including his current cellmates, are doing time for the same crime Abu Qatada is charged with; crimes against state security.

Education and religious guidance feature heavily in the rehabilitation programme; sentences are mitigated for Koran study. The library, which houses 2000 books ranging on subjects from mathematics to Arabic literature also has a section focused on the study of Islam.

If sentenced, Abu Qatada would remain here and be able to teach inmates, say prison officials. Although the position of sheikh is currently filled, the Salafist preacher is bound to find a keen following.

Such a position would be paid; teaching is but one of several occupations available to inmates. Others include carpentry and agriculture; several greenhouses, stuffed with peppers, cucumbers and tomatoes growing in neat rows, are tended to by inmates.

For those in search of lighter entertainment, two televisions in each cell are switched on from 7 am to 1 at night. Up to 2 hours a day can be spent outside the cell complex, for example by being part of the most recent play on 'how to achieve happiness' or competing in basketball, volleyball or chess.

The Independent was only allowed access to Muwaqqar 1, there is another prison on the grounds for those in solitary confinement called Muwaqqar 2. Prison officials said conditions were similar in Muwaqqar 2, but there have been reports of torture from former inmates.  Abu Qatada only returned to Jordan after parliament adopted a treaty which said evidence obtained by torture would be excluded at his trial.

In 2008, Human Rights Watch reported on a prison fire which killed three inmates following protests against alleged physical abuses.

The Adaleh Center for Human Rights, which the British government has appointed to oversee his wellbeing, visited the facility twice last year.

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