LONDON (AP) — A British judge ruled Saturday that radical Muslim cleric Abu Qatada must remain in custody following his arrest for allegedly breaching his bail conditions.
The cleric, who has been described as a key al-Qaida operative in Europe, was arrested in London on Friday following a series of raids by counterterrorism police. The arrest came three days before the government's latest court bid to extradite him to Jordan.
The Judicial Office said Judge Stephen Irwin refused on Saturday to grant the preacher bail and ordered him to return to Belmarsh prison. The judge said there was strong evidence that Abu Qatada had breached bail conditions prohibiting him from having mobile phones switched on in his house while he is there, and from having communications equipment such as digital media devices.
Since 2001, Britain has repeatedly tried to deport the 52-year-old cleric to Jordan, where he has been convicted in absentia regarding terror plots in 1999 and 2000. The preacher has fought lengthy legal battles against his deportation for the past decade on human rights grounds. European and British courts have ruled that there is a risk that testimony against him in Jordan may have been obtained through torture, despite assurances from Jordan that the kingdom's constitution would guarantee a fair trial.
The cleric was released from custody and granted bail in November after the Special Immigration Appeals Commission, which handles major terrorism and deportation cases, upheld his appeal and allowed him to stay in the U.K.
The British government is due to challenge that decision at the Court of Appeal on Monday.