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Court rules against cleric in British case

Terrorism suspect Abu Qatada, who faces deportation to Jordan, plans to appeal again.

February 27, 2007|From the Associated Press

LONDON — An immigration appeals court Monday ruled against a radical Islamic cleric seeking to fight deportation to Jordan.

Britain has accused the cleric, Abu Qatada, of raising funds for extremist groups and offering "spiritual advice and religious legitimacy" to Muslim extremists planning to carry out terrorist attacks. Government attorneys have said he is a threat to national security.

Abu Qatada -- also known by his real name, Omar Mahmoud Othman, and as Omar abu Omar -- has denied supporting terrorism and asserted he would not receive a fair trial if deported to Jordan, where he has been convicted for his alleged involvement in a series of explosions.

The cleric, who had been jailed under anti-terrorism laws between 2002 and 2005 in Britain, was arrested again in August and held pending deportation.

Lawyers for Abu Qatada's lawyers say that evidence against the cleric was obtained by means of torture at a detention facility in Afghanistan.

Abu Qatada's case is seen as the first real test of Britain's plan to deport terrorism suspects to countries with poor human rights records, after securing guarantees that those deported will not be tortured. Opponents say the agreements, which are not binding, offer no protection.

"We have concluded that there is no real risk of persecution of the appellant were he now to be returned with the safeguards and in the circumstances which now apply to him," the Special Immigration Appeals Commission ruled.

Abu Qatada's lawyer, Gareth Peirce, said she would appeal again. There was no immediate timeframe for the cleric to be deported.

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