DUBAI, (Reuters) – Al Qaeda has warned Britain against handing over a radical Islamic cleric to Jordan after his release from prison, saying such a move will open the “door of evil” for the British government and its people, according to an Islamist website.
Britain freed Abu Qatada from prison in February to live under virtual house arrest after a court ruled that his detention without trial was unlawful.
“It has come to our attention that the British government intends to hand over the honorable Sheikh Abu Qatada al-Filistini to the agent Jordanian government, claiming it had secured assurances and covenants not to torture him,” the group said in a statement posted on an Islamist site late on Monday.
“Based on all that, we in Qaedat al-Jihad (al Qaeda) place the responsibility on the British government of handing over Sheikh Abu Qatada to the Jordanian government, and let it be known that by doing so, under any pretext, it will open the door of evil for it and its citizens, which it can do without.”
It was not immediately possible to verify the authenticity of the statement in Arabic.
Twice convicted in absentia in Jordan of involvement in terrorist plots, Britain says Abu Qatada is still a national security risk and should be deported before London hosts the Olympic Games in July and August.
The 51-year-old, whose real name is Omar Othman, has been in and out of jail since he was first detained without charge under British anti-terrorism laws in 2002.
Since his release, Abu Qatada has had to wear an electronic tag to allow the police to keep track of him and spend 22 hours a day at his family home. He is also banned from using the Internet and mobile phones.
Britain says videotapes of his sermons were found in a German apartment used by three of the people who carried out al Qaeda’s September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.
A father of five, Abu Qatada denies belonging to al Qaeda.
The militant group confirmed that Abu Qatada has no “organisational connection” with it or any other group.
If he returns to Jordan, his lawyers say, he risks torture or retrial using evidence extracted from others using torture.
The European Court of Human Rights ruled in February that his detention without charge was unlawful and that Britain must not deport him to Jordan.
Seven European judges ruled that Qatada would not receive a fair trial in Jordan because evidence against him may have been obtained using torture.