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Cleric Abu Qatada held for 'breaching British bail'

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Radical cleric Abu Qatada, once dubbed Osama bin Laden's right-hand man in Europe, has been arrested in London for allegedly breaching his bail conditions, officials said Saturday.

The arrest by the UK Border Agency came just days ahead of the British government's latest bid to try to deport Abu Qatada to Jordan, where he was convicted in absentia of involvement in terror attacks in 1998.

Lawyers for Home Secretary Theresa May will on Monday challenge a ruling by the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) that Abu Qatada cannot be deported over fears that evidence obtained through torture could be used against him in any retrial.

The cleric was released on bail following November's ruling, causing huge frustration in London, where successive governments have been trying to send the Jordanian home for a decade.

"The UK Border Agency arrested a 52-year-old man from north London for alleged breaches of his bail conditions imposed by the Special Immigration Appeals Commission," a spokesman for the Home Office interior ministry said.

He added that the breach will be considered by the commission at the earliest opportunity.

A spokesman for the Judicial Office later said a judge would hold a telephone conference with lawyers on Saturday afternoon to determine whether Abu Qatada had indeed breached his bail conditions.

Under the terms of his release last year, Abu Qatada was placed under a curfew and only allowed to leave his home between 8:00am and 4:00pm. He also had to wear an electronic tag, and restrictions were placed on who he could meet.

The Sun newspaper published photographs of Abu Qatada being led away by officials on Friday, and also reported that his London home had been raided by police on Thursday.

Scotland Yard confirmed they had carried out a number of searches of addresses in the capital.

Abu Qatada, whose real name is Omar Mohammed Othman, arrived in Britain in 1993 claiming asylum and has been a thorn in the side of successive British governments.

A Spanish judge once branded him the right-hand man of bin Laden in Europe, although Abu Qatada denies ever having met the late Al-Qaeda leader.

Prime Minister David Cameron voiced his frustration after the cleric's release in November, saying he was "completely fed up with the fact that this man is still at large in our country".

Britain initially detained Abu Qatada in 2002 under anti-terror laws imposed in the wake of 9/11 but he was released under house arrest, sparking a decade of court battles to first keep him behind bars and then remove him from Britain.

The European Court of Human Rights ruled last year that he could not be deported while there was a "real risk that evidence obtained by torture will be used against him" in any retrial.

The home secretary ordered his extradition anyway after Jordan gave assurances that he would be treated fairly.

But SIAC, a semi-secret panel of British judges that deals with national security matters, blocked the move and he was freed on bail.

May will contest this ruling on Monday at the Court of Appeal.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130309/cleric-abu-qatada-held-breaching-british-bail-1