British Move Closer to Deporting Radical Cleric

Wednesday, 03 Jul 2013 04:25 AM

By Joel Himelfarb

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The British government has moved a step closer to deporting radical cleric Abu Qatada — a man authorities say has served as the spiritual guide to 9/11 hijacker leader Mohammed Atta and authorized the killing of Jewish children — following Jordan’s official publication of a treaty barring evidence obtained through torture from being used against him at a retrial on terror charges.

The agreement has now been ratified by both houses of the Jordanian parliament, approved by King Abdullah, and published in the Hashemite government’s official gazette, Britain’s Guardian newspaper reported Tuesday. The British parliamentary scrutiny process has been completed as well.

"While further steps remain, our focus is on seeing Abu Qatada on a plane to Jordan at the earliest opportunity," British Security Minister James Brokenshire said.

Qatada, a native of the West Bank town of Bethlehem, was convicted in Jordan in 1999 and 2000 on terror-related charges including participation in the thwarted "millennium plot" to attack Western and Israeli targets in Jordan on Dec. 31, 1999.

British authorities said he has also had links to Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaida’s current leader, and to the al-Tawhid movement led by Abu Musab Zarqawi, whose Iraq-based group beheaded British civil engineer Kenneth Bigley after kidnapping him in Baghdad in 2004.

Videos of Qatada’s sermons were reportedly found in Atta's Hamburg, Germany apartment, and three days after 9/11 Qatada called the hijackings a response to America’s unjust policies.

In an October 1999 speech, "he effectively issued a fatwa authorizing the killing of Jews, including Jewish children," according to the British government’s case against him, and said Americans everywhere should be attacked.

Since 2002, he has spent most of his time behind bars pursuant to British immigration and anti-terror laws. Freed on bail in 2008, Qatada went back to prison after violating restrictions on his use of mobile phones and other communication devices.

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