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Britain Resumes Efforts to Deport Radical Cleric

An undated 2005 image made available by the British Prison Service shows Abu Qatada making a televised appeal from Belmarsh high security prison in London.

British authorities have re-arrested a radical Islamist cleric, accused of ties to late al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, in a fresh attempt to deport him to Jordan after more a than decade-long legal battle.

Jordanian preacher Abu Qatada was detained Tuesday by U.K. Border Agency officers. He was denied bail while awaiting the latest extradition attempt to Jordan, where he was convicted in 1998 in absentia of terrorism charges related to two bomb plots.

Britain has been trying to deport Qatada since 2001. But its efforts have repeatedly been blocked by the courts, the latest being in January, when the European Court of Human Rights ruled against the deportation because evidence used against him in Jordan may have been obtained using torture.

British Home Secretary Teresa May told Parliament Tuesday she received new assurances from Jordan that the country's constitution no longer permits the use of evidence obtained through torture.

May, who visited Jordan last month, said she believes the assurance should pave the way to satisfying the courts, allowing the deportation to proceed.

"For more than 10 years successive governments have sought to deport Abu Qatada to Jordan, because of the serious risk he poses to our national security," said May. "He has a long-standing association with al-Qaida, he has been linked to several terrorist plots, and he has been found guilty in absentia in Jordan of terrorist offences."

Jordan's justice minister, Ibrahim al-Jazi, said Qatada will be entitled to a new trial once extradited.

"There was a judgment which was issued against him in absentia," said al-Jazi. "This requires, if he arrives to Jordan, that he will face a full trial. And this full trial will be before a civilian panel within the state security court."

British officials have described Qatada, who arrived in Britain in the 1990s, as former al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden's top European deputy. He has been detained in Britain for most of the past decade under the country's anti-terrorism laws.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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