UK Could Release al Qaeda-Linked Extremist on Bail

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A British court has ruled that Abu Qatada, an extremist Islamic cleric with alleged ties to al Qaeda, should be released on bail.

A judge in London said Monday that Qatada could be released within days for a period of three months under strict guidelines.

Qatada, who's been locked up for six years, began fighting for his release after the European Court of Human Rights ruled last month he should not be deported to face terror charges in Jordan because of concerns that evidence obtained by torture would be used against him.

The British government wants to keep Qatada in a high security prison while continuing a legal fight to have him deported. The government argues that he poses a serious threat to the country's security.

Qatada's real name is Omar Mahmoud Mohammed Othman. He's an extremist Muslim preacher from Jordan who is described in both Spanish and British courts as a leading al Qaeda figure in Europe.

He was believed to have close ties with Osama bin Laden before the al Qaeda leader's death.

Qatada's lawyer, Ed Fitzgerald, told Judge John Mitting that the cleric had been held for too long without charges.

"However the risk of absconding, however the risk of further offending, there comes a point when it's just too long," Fitzgerald said.

Mitting ruled that the British government had three months to negotiate with Jordan. But he added that he believed it would be a long time before a decision on Qatada's deportation could be reached in light of the European court's decision.

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