LONDON, AP -Britain detained a Palestinian cleric considered Osama bin Laden”s spiritual ambassador in Europe and nine other foreigners on Thursday, saying they were a threat to national security and would be deported.
The detentions came a day after Britain signed an extradition agreement with Jordan, where the Palestinian cleric Omar Mahmoud Abu Omar, who is better known as Abu Qatada, has been sentenced in absentia to life imprisonment on terror charges.
The Home Office didn”t identify the detainees, but a British government official confirmed that Abu Qatada was in custody.
The cleric”s lawyer, Gareth Peirce, also released a statement condemning the arrests and complaining the individuals had not been allowed to see their attorneys.
The Home Office said the foreigners would be deported once Britain was assured they would not face torture of mistreatment in the countries to which they were being sent.
Prime Minister Tony Blair last week announced measures to deport radical Islamic extremists following the July terrorist attacks on London”s transit system.
Abu Qatada was sentenced in Jordan in absentia for his alleged involvement in a series of explosions and terror plots. He also has been described by British officials as bin Laden”s "spiritual ambassador in Europe" and allegedly was an inspiration for Sept. 11 hijacker Mohamed Atta.
The cleric spent three years in a high security British prison without being charged, under anti-terror powers introduced after the Sept. 11 attacks, but he was released in March after Britain”s highest court ruled the legislation breached human rights.
As a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights, Britain is not allowed to deport people to a country where they may face torture or death. But the government has been trying to win pledges from several countries, including Algeria, Lebanon, Tunisia and Egypt, that deportees would not be subjected to inhumane treatment.
An agreement was signed Wednesday with Jordan.
"We believe now that we can get the assurances that these people will not be tortured or mistreated and on that basis we will be able to proceed with the deportations," Home Office minister Hazel Blears told the BBC.
The Home Office said Home Secretary Charles Clarke had issued the 10 foreigners with a "notice of intention to deport" and that they had been detained. They have five working days to appeal the decision.
Meanwhile, radical cleric Omar Bakri was arrested in the Lebanon by security officials. Bakri left Britain, where he has lived for 20 years, last weekend amid speculation he could face treason charges, and flew to Lebanon to see his mother.
The cleric founded the now-disbanded radical Islamic group al-Muhajiroun, which came under scrutiny in Britain, particularly after some of its members praised the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.
Several people also appeared in British court Thursday in connection with the failed July 21 bomb attacks.
They included the wife and sister-in-law of Hamdi Issac, who is suspected of trying to blow up a subway train. Issac, also known as Osman Hussain, later was detained in Rome and is being held there on international terrorism charges.
Issac”s wife, Yeshiemebet Girma, 29, and her sister Mulumebet Girma, 21, appeared at Bow Street Magistrates” Court to face charges of withholding information from police about Issac”s whereabouts. Judge Timothy Workman denied bail and ordered them detained until an appearance at the Central Criminal Court on Nov. 17.