LONDON – A British immigration judge on Monday denied bail to Abu Qatada, saying he could not risk having the radical cleric on the streets during the London Olympics.
Abu Qatada, who has been described in both Spanish and British courts as a leading al-Qaida figure in Europe, is being held in a high-security prison while he fights deportation to Jordan over terror charges. Both the British and Jordanian governments want Abu Qatada to stand trial in Jordan, but he claims he will be tortured if he is deported.
Abu Qatada lost his bid to make a final appeal of a deportation order to the European Court of Human Rights, but his lawyers had applied to release him on bail because deportation proceedings could still take several months.
Judge John Mitting said Monday afternoon that having Abu Qatada free on London's streets would be "exceptionally problematic" at a time of heightened security and very high demand on resources during the Olympics, which take place from July 27 to Aug. 12 in London.
"As a matter of logical inference, if Abu Qatada were to abscond, either resources would have to be diverted to finding him or finding him would have to be accorded a lower priority," the judge said.
Mitting ruled that the cleric will remain in prison without bail ahead of his deportation appeal in October.
Britain's Home Office said Abu Qatada is "a dangerous man" and it is pleased with the decision to keep him behind bars.
Earlier this month, Abu Qatada lost his bid to make a final appeal to the European Court of Human Rights against a British deportation order, effectively clearing the way for the U.K. to resume efforts to expel him to Jordan.
A European Court of Human Rights review panel refused to hear Abu Qatada's challenge, marking a milestone in the legal wrangling over the alleged senior al-Qaida figure and effectively exhausting his efforts to have European judges intervene in the case.
Abu Qatada has fought attempts to expel him from the U.K. since 2001, alleging he would face torture in Jordan.
Cassandra Vinograd can be reached at http://twitter.com/CassVinograd