Al-Qaida's 'spiritual ambassador' faces return to Jordan

Posted in Europe | 12-Aug-05 | Author: Mark Honigsbaum and Alan Travi| Source: Guardian (UK)

Abu Qatada
Abu Qatada, real name Omar Mahmoud Mohammed Othman, has been called al-Qaida's "spiritual ambassador" to Europe and a "truly dangerous individual".

Tapes of the 44-year-old Jordanian cleric's sermons were found in the Hamburg flat used by some of the 9/11 hijackers. He has been linked to the shoebomber Richard Reid and to Zacarias Moussaoui, the man accused of being the "20th hijacker" in the World Trade Centre attacks.

Mr Qatada claimed asylum in 1993 on a forged United Arab Emirates passport after fleeing Jordan where he faced accusations of inciting terrorist acts. Two years later he issued a fatwa which appeared to justify killing the wives and children of "apostates" to stop the oppression of Muslims in Algeria.

In February 2001 he was arrested by counter-terrorist police due to his suspected involvement with a Frankfurt cell which plotted to bomb the Strasbourg Christmas market. After the 9/11 attacks he fled his home in Acton, west London, tough anti-terror laws were introduced.

Weighing more than 20 stone (127kg) and more than 6ft tall, Mr Qatada made an unlikely fugitive. But he evaded the authorities for 10 months before his arrest in an armed raid in south London in October 2002.

Detained in Belmarsh prison, he was freed last March on conditional bail and placed on a control order. He has been under effective house arrest.

He faces deportation to Jordan where he was sentenced in absentia to life in prison over a series of bombings.

In interviews with British security services in 1996 and 1997, Mr Qatada claimed to have "little love" for Osama bin Laden's methods but last year his appeal against detention was rejected. The Special Immigration Appeals Commission called him a "truly dangerous individual" who had embraced Bin Laden's approach.

The Spanish judge Baltasar Garzon, who led the investigation into Spanish links to the 9/11 attacks, labelled him "Osama bin Laden's right-hand man".

Mr Qatada's supporters claim he viewed the 9/11 attacks as a tactical mistake.

The rest

Eight of the nine Algerians facing deportation were released from Belmarsh under control orders after being held without charge. They cannot be named.

A Detained in 2001. Used credit card fraud to raise funds for GSPC, an Algerian group with terrorist intentions and"broadly supported" the aims of Bin Laden.

B Belonged to the GSPC and alleged to have sent communications equipment to Islamist forces in Chechnya.

H Supporter of the FIS, the Islamist group which won the Algerian elections in 1991. He was given refugee status but arrested for fundraising and distributing propaganda for banned groups.

K Arrived from Spain in 1998.

P A double amputee accused of associating with Algerian groups.

G Accused of supporting the GSPC and encouraging young men to train with Islamist groups in Afghanistan and has al-Qaida links.

I Claimed asylum in 1995 and was detained in April 2002 .

S Arrived from Pakistan in 1998. He has been held under extradition acts after a request from France.