LONDON – A British tribunal granted bail Thursday to four Algerian terrorist (search) suspects facing extradition, a ruling that was condemned by a government official who said the men represent a threat to national security.
The four men, whose names were not released, were detained in August as part of an anti-terrorist crackdown that followed London's transit bombings in July. The bail conditions set will restrict the men's movements, amounting to virtual house arrest.
They were among 10 suspects who had applied for bail to the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (search), an immigration tribunal.
The tribunal ordered the four released pending the outcome of appeals against their detentions. Five other suspects had their bail applications turned down. The only one of those five identified was Abu Qatada (search), a Jordanian cleric once described by a Spanish judge as Usama bin Laden's (search) "spiritual ambassador in Europe."
The commission's chairman, High Court judge Duncan Ousely, said the tribunal agreed with the government that Qatada might flee if released.
A 10th man had his case adjourned.
Home Office minister Hazel Blears said the government was disappointed with the ruling.
"It remains our view that these individuals represent a real risk to the national security of this country and should continue to be detained," she said.
She said British authorities "remain committed to pursuing their deportation" to Algeria.
In the wake of the July 7 attacks that killed 52 people and the four bombers, British authorities said they were trying to reach agreements with several north African and Middle Eastern countries, including Libya and Algeria, guaranteeing deportees would not be tortured or abused on their return.
As a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights (search), Britain is not allowed to deport people to countries where they may be mistreated.
At hearings last month, Ben Emmerson, a lawyer representing seven of the suspects, told the commission that there was "no connection, suggested or evidenced" between the 10 and the July bombings.
But Sean Wilken, a lawyer representing the government, said the 10 detainees were a threat to national security and had helped create "the climate, the motivation and the opportunity" for the attacks.