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Radical Islamist cleric rebuffed by 2 judges in bid for release in UK as he fights deportation
LONDON (AP) ¯¯¯ Two judges on Tuesday rejected the latest bid by radical Islamist cleric Abu Qatada to be freed from detention in Britain, which has been trying to deport him for years.
Lord Justice Anthony Hughes said he and Judge Stephen Silber were "quite satisfied" that the cleric's bid should be rejected. Lawyers for Abu Qatada said they would seek to appeal.
The U.K. has been trying for more than a decade to deport Abu Qatada, a Palestinian-Jordanian preacher described in both Spanish and British courts as a leading al-Qaida figure in Europe and a threat to national security.
Both the British and Jordanian governments want Abu Qatada to stand trial on terror charges in Jordan, but he claims he will be tortured if he is deported there. Over the years, the cleric, who is also known as Omar Mahmoud Mohammed Othman, has been detained in various ways, including being placed under house arrest. He is currently being held in a high-security prison.
His lawyers had applied to the British High Court for permission to seek judicial review and a writ of habeas corpus freeing the cleric while he fights deportation.
"There comes a point where detention is just too long, and this is the longest period of administrative detention, so far as we know, in modern English history," his lawyer, Edward Fitzgerald , told the court on Tuesday. "It cannot be right, when we are already at seven years ¯¯¯ and when there is an inevitable likelihood this is going to go on for at least another year ¯¯¯ for there to be continued detention."
In May, the Special Immigration Appeals Commission denied bail to Abu Qatada ahead of his deportation appeal in October.
Robin Tam, a lawyer representing the Commission, said one court judgment had called Abu Qatada "a truly dangerous individual" who, if granted bail, might "abscond and go to ground."
Britain's Home Office has said it will "strongly resist" any attempt to overturn the decision to keep Abu Qatada locked up, calling the latest legal bid "the last desperate attempts of a man who has run out of options."
Abu Qatada has fought attempts to expel him from the U.K. since 2001. He has previously been convicted in absentia in Jordan of terrorist offenses related to two alleged bomb plots in 1999 and 2000, and he will face a retrial if deported from Britain.