AMMAN, Jordan – Jordan will ask Britain next week to extradite a radical Muslim cleric who has been described as Usama bin Laden's "spiritual ambassador in Europe," Interior Minister Awni Yirfas (search) said on Friday.
Omar Mahmood Othman Abu Omar (search), better known as Abu Qatada, was among 10 foreigners that British police arrested Thursday on suspicion of posing a threat to national security in Britain. He allegedly has maintained links with radical groups in Britain, Italy, France, Germany, and Spain.
The detentions came days after British Prime Minister Tony Blair (search) announced tough new proposals to deport Islamic extremists in the wake of the July 7 suicide bombings in London that killed 56 people.
"We will contact the British government after the weekend to seek his extradition to Jordan," Yirfas told The Associated Press.
He said the request will initially be delivered verbally to the British Embassy in Amman and will be followed by a written request. The countries signed a extradition agreement earlier this week.
Yirfas said he could not predict when Abu Qatada will be sent back to Jordan.
"It all depends on the procedures here and in the United Kingdom," Yirfas said. He said British courts may have to endorse a deportation order from the London government.
When he arrives in Jordan, Abu Qatada would be "retried under a Jordanian law which allows persons convicted and sentenced in absentia the right to retrial once captured," Yirfas added.
Born in the West Bank town of Bethlehem in 1960, Abu Qatada was convicted in absentia in Jordan in 2000 on charges of conspiring to attack U.S. and Israeli tourists during the kingdom's millennium celebrations. The State Security Court sentenced him to 15 years in jail.
According to the prosecution indictment, his role in the conspiracy was mainly to finance the terror group.
In its judgment, the military court said it had no evidence that Abu Qatada's group had links to the Al Qaeda terror network led by Usama bin Laden. But a Spanish judge described Abu Qatada as bin Laden's "spiritual ambassador in Europe."
British authorities believe Abu Qatada inspired the lead Sept. 11 hijacker Mohamed Atta and he is suspected of having links with radical groups across Europe.
At the end of another trial in 1998, a Jordanian military court found Abu Qatada and eight other militants guilty of conspiring to carry out acts of terror by detonating bombs outside an Amman hotel, a school, and under the cars of a former intelligence chief and a former interior minister. In that case, Abu Qatada was sentenced in absentia to 15 years in jail.