A radical Islamist cleric described by prosecutors as a key al-Qaeda operative in Europe cannot be deported from Britain to Jordan to face terrorism charges, judges ruled today in the latest twist in a protracted legal saga. Though the country's Home Office said it intended to appeal against the decision, the judge then granted Abu Qatada bail and said he would be freed from prison tomorrow—despite a claim from a government lawyer that he poses "an enormous risk to national security."
Britain's government has tried since 2001 to expel Qatada, who has previously been convicted in absentia in Jordan of terrorist offenses related to two alleged bomb plots in 1999 and 2000. But the judges said there was a real risk that evidence obtained through torture would be used against Qatada, despite the government's insistence that it had won assurances from Jordan's King Abdullah II that it would not be. The European Court of Human Rights reported in January that "not only is torture widespread in Jordan, so too is the use of torture evidence by its courts."