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Abu Qatada – A Legal Failure?

Abu Qatada, born in 1960, is one of the most important ideologues in Al-Qa’eda. He was described by Britain’s national security court as a “truly dangerous individual” and by a Spanish judge as “Osama bin Laden’s right hand man in Europe”.(Guardian,2012) Based in the United Kingdom, authorities claimed he is an important fundraiser for Al-Qa’eda throughout Europe, as well as an important recruiter for Al-Qa’eda Jihadi training camps in Pakistan and Afghanistan.(Reuters,2002) Abu Qatada is on a worldwide embargo by the United Nations Security Council Committee 1267 for his alleged affiliation with Al-Qa’eda.(BBC,2012)

Abu Qatada was born in Bethlehem while the city was under Jordan’s control; Abu Qatada is of Palestinian descent and also holds Jordanian citizenship. He arrived in Britain in September 1993, seeking asylum on the basis of having been tortured by Jordanian authorities, and was granted refugee status in June 1994. British authorities claim he became a prominent figure in London’s militant Islamic community and abroad, upon arrival in the United Kingdom, both by advocating the overthrow of foreign-backed governments in the Middle East in favour of regimes founded on Islam. Initially British authorities believed Abu Qatada would be able to help them understand the network of Muslim extremists in the UK and believed he was not harmful. However, as Abu Qatada became more vocally hard-line through his sermons, targeting Jews and speaking out in favour of suicide attacks, they realized he was potential threat. In the early 1990s, Abu Qatada became the spiritual leader for Armed Islamic Group (GIA) in the early 1990s. (Reuters, 2002) He also became the editor in chief of Al-Ansar which is the newspaper for Tawheed al-Jihad, a division of Al-Qa’eda. (MEMRI, 2005) European and American intelligence believe that Qatada became closely connected to Al-Qaeda through Al-Zarqawi and Al-Maqdisi after becoming acquainted with them in Kuwait. Qatada began recruiting young men for Al-Zarqawi and Al-Maqdisi in the UK to send to Pakistan and Afghanistan to Jihadi training camps. Qatada became a close friend and partner of Osama bin Laden through his work as a recruiter.(MEMRI, 2005) British authorities accused Abu Qatada of having ties to Zacarias Moussaoui, the “20th 9/11 hijacker,” and with shoe bomber Richard Reid. Audio recordings of some of the cleric’s sermons were found in an apartment in Hamburg, Germany, used by some of the 9/11 hijackers. (CNN, 2012)

Authorities also believe that Abu Qatada is the link between Al-Qaeda the base to Jihadist networks in Chechnya. In February 2001, he was arrested with £ 170,000 in cash, including £805 in an envelope labelled “For Mujahedin in Chechnya”. Authorities were unable to convict him due to lack of substantial evidence and he was later released. (MEMRI, 2005).

In April 2012, Al-Shabaab Al-Mujaheddin threatened an attack against Britain, if Abu Qatada was deported from the UK to Jordan. (Telegraph, 2012). He was released from British jail after the court ruled that he might not get a fair trial if deported to Jordan.

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