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Abu Qatada: al Qaeda offers release of British hostage in exchange for its cleric

A North African militant Islamist group linked to al Qaeda has offered to free British hostage Stephen Malcolm in exchange for cleric Abu Qatada.

Abu qatada 2012 03 05Enlarge
The UK government says Qatada, long accused of being one of the UK’s most dangerous extremist preachers and a leading Al Qaeda figure in Europe, poses a threat to national security. ( - /AFP/Getty Images)

A North African militant Islamist group linked to al Qaeda has offered to free British hostage Stephen Malcolm in exchange for cleric Abu Qatada.

The group said Qatada must be allowed to go to an Arab Spring country or destination of his choice, according to BBC News. It went on to say Britain would "bear the consequences of handing Abu Qatada to the Jordanian government" if the offer was ignored.

In the statement, said to be from al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the group offered to release Malcolm, who was abducted in November with two other men from Timbuktu, Mali, reported CNN.

"We will release the British national prisoner that we have, Stephen Malcolm, ... if the British government will allow the deportation of Sheikh Abu Qatada to one of the Arab Spring countries or any other country of his choice that will ensure his freedom, rights and dignity," said the statement, according to CNN.

More from GlobalPost: Abu Qatada, radical Muslim preacher, to be deported: official

Britain has been trying to deport Abu Qatada to Jordan for more than six years, saying his is a threat to national security, reported Agence France-Presse. Qatada was convicted in 1998 in absentia of involvement in terror attacks.

Described by a judge as Osama bin Laden's right-hand man in Europe, Qatada has been fighting deportation for 10 years, according to the Press Association.

The European court of human rights said Qatada wouldn't receive a fair trial in Jordan, reported the Guardian. The court ruled evidence against him might be obtained through torture, although London said it has been told Qatada will receive a fair trial.

More from GlobalPost: Abu Qatada, radical Muslim cleric, blocks UK deportation plans with appeal

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/united-kingdom/120430/abu-qatada-al-qaeda-offers-release-british-hostage-exchange