Photo by /AFP/Getty Images.
A radical Islamist preacher who influenced some of the 9/11 hijackers is set to be released from a high-security British prison on Monday, after a judge decided last week that the cleric's six-year detention could not continue following a ruling by Europe's highest court.
The Associated Press reports that Abu Qatada, a 51-year-old Palestinian-Jordanian whose taped sermons were found in a Hamburg apartment of one of the 9/11 terrorists and who advised would-be mid-Atlantic shoe bomber Richard Reid, was jailed under a controversial U.K. anti-terrorism law back in 2002 that allowed suspects to be imprisoned without formal charges.
Abu Qatada was released in 2005 when the unpopular law was overturned but was kept under tight surveillance and arrested again within months while the United Kingdom and Jordan tried to arrange his pending deportation. Jordanian authorities have linked him to plots to kill American and Israeli tourists during Jordan's millennium celebrations, and have convicted him in absentia for terrorist offenses in 1999 and 2000. If deported, Abu Qatada would face retrial.
The European Court of Human Rights, Europe’s highest court, blocked Abu Qatada’s deportation back in January on fears that evidence obtained by torture might be used against him in his retrial. Though the European court's rulings are not strictly binding on the United Kingdom, British courts must nonetheless take the decisions into account.
A British judge ruled last week that in light of this ruling, Abu Qatada’s detention could not continue.
Abu Qatada arrived in Britain in 1993 as part of the country’s large influx of Islamists seeking refuge from despotic regimes they were trying to overthrow, notes the BBC.
Abu Qatada, whose real name is Omar Othman, will not walk the streets of London a free man, however, the BBC explains. He will have a 10 p.m. curfew and will be barred from using the Internet and his cellphone. He will also be electronically tagged and only allowed to leave his property for an hour at a time.