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Friday, 25 October, 2002, 10:00 GMT 11:00 UK
Cleric held as terror suspect
Omar Mohammed Othman (Abu Qatada)
Abu Qatada had already had his assets frozen
A Muslim cleric suspected of links with Osama Bin Laden has been detained under UK anti-terror laws introduced after 11 September.

London-based Abu Qatada, who is accused of being a senior figure in the Al-Qaeda terror network, is thought to have been arrested on Wednesday.

Mr Qatada, who had disappeared shortly before the laws came into force in December, was named on a UN list of suspected terrorists with links to Bin Laden.

His arrest came as the Court of Appeal ruled the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act - the legislation under which he is being held - is lawful.

My decision to detain these individuals was made on the basis of detailed and compelling evidence

David Blunkett
Home Secretary David Blunkett announced on Thursday that a suspect had been held under emergency terrorism powers.

He refused to identify the detainee, but it is understood to be Mr Qatada - a Jordanian-born Palestinian who was granted asylum in Britain in 1994.

Mr Qatada is a wanted man in Jordan, where he was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment in his absence for alleged involvement in a number of explosions in 1998.

US and Spanish investigators have described him as "Osama Bin Laden's ambassador in Europe".

He is alleged to have links with shoe-bomber Richard Reid and Zacharias Moussaoui, who is being held under suspicion of involvement in planning the 11 September attacks.

12 held

A document was recently published on the internet under his name justifying the 11 September attacks on moral grounds.

Mr Qatada is the 12th suspect to be detained under the new Terrorism Act, although two have since left the UK, it emerged on Thursday. The other 10 remain in custody.

Eight of the 12 were detained in December 2001, one in February, two in April and another on Wednesday. The authorities have never named those they are holding.

In a written statement to the Commons on Thursday, Mr Blunkett said all the detainees were being held for immigration violations and did not face criminal charges.

Mr Blunkett said their detention was "necessary and proportionate".

The law allows foreign nationals who pose a security threat, but cannot be deported or prosecuted, to be kept in custody indefinitely without charge or trial.

MI5 'recruitment'

Mr Qatada was briefly arrested in connection with terrorism and released without charge in February, 2001.

After the 11 September attacks, his passport was seized and his assets frozen. He was ordered to stay in his house.

But in December he vanished just before the new terror laws came into force.

After his disappearance, it was rumoured he had been recruited by the UK security services, a claim that was denied.

The Times newspaper reported that the radical 42-year-old - real name Sheikh Omar Mahmood Abu Omar - was arrested at a council house in Bermondsey, South London, in a joint operation by Scotland Yard anti-terrorist officers and MI5 agents.

He is now in Belmarsh top security prison, according to the paper.

The BBC's Jane Bennett-Powell
"He will stay in custody without time limit"
The BBC's Andrew North
"How could a man wanted in five countries vanish into thin air?"

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