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Preaching Jihad on Welfare: The Story of Abu Qatada

By Michael Radu
Foreign Policy Research Institute
June 27, 2008

"Britain let violent speeches go on too long. Laxity
     in  this   area  isn't   good  for  anybody."  Dalil
     Boubakeur, head of the Grand Mosque of Paris

The U.S.  Supreme Court's  recent decision  to grant  habeas
corpus  to   alien  terrorist   suspects  outside   American
territory has  just been surpassed by an even more misguided
decision in a British court, which released from custody the
most dangerous  terrorist recruiter and ideologue in Europe.
His name  is Omar  Mohammed  Othman,  better  known  as  Abu
Qatada, described by Spanish counterterrorism judge Baltasar
Garzon as  bin Laden's  "spiritual ambassador in Europe." As
Tory MP  Patrick Mercer observed, "Yet again, terrorists are
laughing  at  us  and  remaining  in  this  country  at  the
taxpayer's expense.  . .  . Abu  Qatada, Bin Laden's twisted
mouthpiece, stays  with  us  inside  this  country.  What  a

Born in  Bethlehem in 1960, Abu Qatada, a Jordanian citizen,
is wanted  on terrorism  charges in  Jordan,  where  he  was
sentenced in  absentia to life imprisonment, and in Algeria,
the U.S.,  Belgium, Spain, France, Germany and Italy. For at
least a  decade just  about every  major terrorism  case  in
Western Europe and many in North Africa, the Middle East and
as far away as Australia and Indonesia have had some link to
Abu Qatada's activities.

Qatada  has  lived  on  welfare  (with  his  wife  and  five
children) since  his 1993  arrival on a fake UAE passport in
the UK. This is a country that just denied entry to American
media star  Martha Stewart, who served five months in prison
for lying  to investigators  in an investment scandal. While
no one has ever suggested that Ms. Stewart poses a threat to
the  general   population,  Qatada   remains   in   the   UK
notwithstanding that  when he was first arrested in February
2001 police  found œ170,000 in cash in his home, marked "For
the mujahideen  in Chechnya." And that was just a minor part
of his operations.

What makes  Abu Qatada  such  a  dangerous  person  and  the
court's decision to release him so outrageous is his role as
a recruiter  and legitimizer  of Islamist  terror throughout
the world.  While every  jihadist group and individual needs
the approval  and encouragement  of an  established  Islamic
"scholar," and  most have  their  own  in-house  imams,  Abu
Qatada's reach  was truly  global. By  1995  he  was  giving
religious sanction to, and publishing in London the al-Ansar
newsletter of, the Algerian Armed Islamic Group (GIA), which
is responsible for some 130,000 murders of mostly civilians.
Indeed, so murderous was the GIA that even bin Laden thought
it gave  jihad a  bad name  and by 1998 withdrew his support
for it,  transferring it  to the Salafist Group for Call and
Combat  (GSPC)--as   did  Abu  Qatada  himself,  once  again
demonstrating his links to Al Qaeda, which go as far back as
1989, when  he first  met bin  Laden in Pakistan. Indeed, in
March 1995  Abu Qatada  had issued  a "fatwa" justifying the
GIA killing  of "apostates" (non-Islamists), their wives and
children, in order to stop the "oppression" of Muslims.

Garzon  indicted   Abu  Qatada  in  2001,  accusing  him  of
cooperating with  the convicted  leader of a Madrid jihadist
cell in raising funds for Al Qaeda terrorists in Europe, the
Middle  East   and  Afghanistan.   After  9/11,  the  German
authorities investigating the Hamburg cell of Al Qaeda found
his tapes  in Mohamed  Atta's home.  Abu  Qatada's  admirers
include Zakarias Moussaoui, the now-jailed 9/11 conspirator;
Richard Reid,  the "shoe  bomber"; and  the notorious French
jihadis Rashid  Ramda and  Djamel Beghal. Mustafa Setmariam,
contemporary jihad's  most prominent  theoretician,  is  his
friend. Among the jihadist groups Abu Qatada provided advice
to were  the Islamic  Jihad in  Egypt,  Zarqawi's  al-Tawhid
movement in  Iraq, and  similar ones  in   Indonesia, Libya,
Tunisia and Morocco.

Abu Qatada's  odyssey demonstrates  the general problem most
democracies face  in combating  Islamist terrorism. To begin
with, he  was expelled  from Kuwait  after  supporting  that
country's occupation  by Saddam Hussein. He moved to Jordan,
where he  associated with  radicals seeking to overthrow the
government, and arrived in England with false documents. Any
of these  would be  sufficient reason,  one would  think, to
deny his  request for  asylum for  "religious  persecution."
Instead, he  was placed  on welfare and used this safety net
to preach global jihad from his perch at Finsbury mosque and
the Four  Feathers Social  Club  in  Baker  Street,  central

Qatada was arrested in 2001 on suspicion of involvement in a
plot to  bomb the  Strasbourg Christmas  market under powers
contained in  the Anti-Terrorism,  Crime and Security Act of
2001. After  going into  hiding, he  was arrested in October
2002 in  an armed  raid on  a south London council house and
detained in  Belmarsh high-security  jail, only  to be freed
early  in  2005  (although  subjected  to  a  control  order
limiting his  movements and  contacts) after  the law  lords
ruled that his detention was unlawful. In August 2005 he was
arrested again  after the  7/07 bombings so that he could be
deported to  Jordan, but  in April  2008 the Court of Appeal
ruled that  his deportation  would breach human rights laws,
as evidence  used  against  him  in  Jordan  may  have  been
obtained through torture. On May 2008 he was granted bail by
an immigration  tribunal, with some of the bail money having
been put  up a  former British hostage in Iraq whose release
Abu Qatada  had advocated. In June he was released from jail
and placed under house arrest.

As Abd  al-Rahman al-Rashed,  the Director of Al Arabiya TV,
observed in  2007, Abu  Qatada preferred to remain in prison
and not  to return  to his homeland, Jordan, just like Osama
Nasser, the  imam from Milan, who protested being removed to
Egypt and  imprisoned there.  (Nasser also sought to sue for
20 million  Euros in  damages.) Abu Qatada, Nasser, and Omar
Bakri, who  fled London for Lebanon in 2005, enjoyed all the
benefits of  the UK government they despised. "They want the
financial aid,  the security,  the law,  the justice and the
freedom of  expression afforded  by this government. Is this
not the epitome of hypocrisy?"[2]

Indeed, Abu  Qatada  receives  $2,000  a  month  in  welfare
payments, although  in Islamic  Movements  and  Contemporary
Alliances he  rejected any  affiliation  whatsoever  between
Muslim  and   non-Muslim  countries   and   peoples--except,
apparently, when  infidel welfare  subsidies to  jihadis are

The British  court's decision  to let  Abu Qatada  go, which
will be seen as a precedent by more known prominent jihadis,
is only the latest demonstration of the immoral absurdity of
"human rights"  obsessions, as  enshrined  in  the  European
Human Rights Charter and applied by various judges. To begin
with, as  Amnesty International gloated when it commented on
a previous European Court of Human Rights decision (followed
by  the   British   courts   ever   since),   "The   Court's
jurisprudence makes  it clear that there is no balance to be
struck between the right of the individual not to be exposed
to  such  risks  [of  torture]  and  the  national  security
interests of  the sending  state (see  the European Court of
Human Rights  judgment in  the  case  of  Chahal  v.  United

The EU  courts, British  judges and  Amnesty are essentially
telling citizens  that their  safety--indeed their  right to
live--is less  important than the putative "rights" of known
jihadis, and  that the  state's main  obligation, to protect
its  citizens,   is  less  important  than  the  "right"  of
terrorists to  be provided  a "fair  trial" according to the
standards of  Amnesty International  (AI) and  Human  Rights
Watch (HRW).  Among those  "rights" is  that of  not risking
even the  remotest risk of "torture," again as defined by AI
and HRW,  including such  ill-defined things  as  "inhuman,"
"humiliating," "degrading "or other discomforting treatment.

Aware of  the fact that its courts are consistently inclined
to protect  jihadis, the British government tried to get rid
of Abu  Qatada by  sending him  back to  Jordan, where he is
under a  life sentence,  but that effort fizzled when judges
rejected the  memorandum of  understanding the UK had signed
with Amman,  whereby Jordan  promised not to mistreat him in
any way.  That, and  similar arrangements  with Algeria  and
Egypt, were  not good enough for the judges, who took a page
from the human rights NGOs.

The NGOs'  circular arguments against the deportation of Abu
Qatada to  Jordan exemplifies  their refusal  to  understand
that public  safety  is  more  important  than  the  alleged
possibility of  mistreatment  of  the  terrorists  in  their
country of  origin. HRW  claims that "The essential argument
against  diplomatic   assurances  contained   in   bilateral
agreements such  as 'memoranda of understanding' is that the
perceived  need   for  such   guarantees  in  itself  is  an
acknowledgement that  a  risk  of  torture  and  other  ill-
treatment exists  in the  receiving country,"[4]  hiding the
fact that the British government sought such assurances from
Amman  specifically  to  assure  groups  like  AI  and  HRW.
Moreover, these  groups  offer  no  solution  to  the  basic
dilemma: is  the British government expected to allow an Abu
Qatada to stay in London and continue his indoctrination and
recruiting  activities  on  behalf  of  Islamist  terrorism,
including attacks  within the  UK? If so, as the implication
of its  position suggests,  HRW (and  Amnesty) should  state
clearly  that   for  them  the  simple  possibility  that  a
prominent figure  of global terrorism could be mistreated in
Jordan is  more important than the safety of the rest of the

The problem  starts with  the UN Torture Convention of 1984,
which defined torture as

     "Any  act  by  which  severe  pain  or  suffering,
     whether physical  or mental  [emphasis added],  is
     intentionally  inflicted  on  a  person  for  such
     purposes as  obtaining from  him or a third person
     information or  a confession, punishing him for an
     act he  or a  third person  has  committed  or  is
     suspected of  having committed, or intimidating or
     coercing him  or a third person, or for any reason
     based on  discrimination of  any kind,  when  such
     pain or  suffering  is  inflicted  by  or  at  the
     instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence
     of a  public official or other person acting in an
     official capacity."[5]

From that  fuzzy definition  it was  a short  step for human
rights   fundamentalists    to   interpret   any   form   of
interrogation as, at least, mental pressure, and from there,
to accuse  most countries,  including the  United States, of
practicing "torture."  Since the  NGOs and  their  political
admirers made  the right  of those charged of a crime to not
face such  "torture" more  important than  national or other
people's security,  all it  takes is  for AI,  HRW or judges
agreeing with their "standards" to claim that country X did,
could, or may practice "torture" for any potential victim to
obtain protection, and voila, Abu Qatada is practically free
to recruit and legitimize jihad at taxpayers' expense.

To be  sure,  the  British  courts'  disregard  of  national
security is  just another  expression of  the  same  British
cultural  and  political  factors  that  brought  the  label
"Londonistan" on  England -  factors that  are also  present
among some  members of  the U.S.  Congress  and  the  media.
However, the  Abu Qatada  precedent also threatens the other
26 EU  member states  - all  of whom would, theoretically at
least, be  obliged to  accept his  presence and  activities.
Furthermore, the  lawyers for Abu Hamza, another major jihad
recruiter from  London  and  beneficiary  of  Britain's  lax
immigration laws,  are now  appealing his extradition to the
United States  because, you  may have  guessed,  the  "human
rights" NGOs  and their  enablers in  the media have decided
that, as  Guantanamo has  "proved," Washington  may  torture

As Alasdair  Palmer notes  in the Telegraph, "It is not only
politicians and  'opinion formers'  who are unable to resist
extremism:  judges   are  frequently   liable  to  the  same
syndrome. That  has  been  evident  in  their  penchant  for
striking down  anti-terrorist legislation while insisting on
the  importance  of  never  compromising  fundamental  legal
principles. The  'absolutist' commitment  is what led to the
judges' decision  to free  Abu Qatada,  even  as  one  judge
described him as 'a truly dangerous individual.'"[6]

Philip Johnston  of the  Telegraph recounts,  "[Khalid  al-]
Fawwaz and  [Adel] Abdelbarry  have  been  imprisoned  since
1999, probably  the longest  incarceration in  British legal
history without  charge or  trial, fighting  extradition  to
America. They  were held  under an  extradition  warrant  in
London where  they worked  for bin  Laden's media organ, the
Advice and  Reform Committee.  Their story, and those of Abu
Hamza and  Abu Qatada--provide an extraordinary insight into
both how  London  became  a  hotbed  for  imported  Islamist
militancy and  how the  legal system  and human  rights laws
subsequently made  it almost  impossible to  deal  with  it.
Furthermore, the cost to the taxpayer of the legal action in
these four cases runs into millions of pounds."[7]

"Londonistan" is  only the  most outrageous  example of  how
irresponsible respect  for the "rights" of known terrorists,
promoted  by   "human  rights"   radicals  and  enforced  by
unelected  judges,   threatens  national  security  and  the
individual safety  of citizens.  The phenomenon is much more
widespread, and  until voters  in democracies,  acting  with
common sense  and a  healthy instinct  of self-preservation,
demand change,  defense against  Islamist terrorism  remains
hampered and the threat only grows.


[1] James  Slack, "Bin Laden's 'right-hand man' set for life
on British  benefits after  judges  rule  deportation  would
breach his human rights," Daily Mail, April 10, 2008.

[2] Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed, "Why Do Islamist Extremists Who
Incite Against  the West  Insist  on  Living  There?"  MEMRI
Special Dispatch, March 8, 2007.

[3] see www.amnesty.org.

[4] Human  Rights Watch,  UK: "Abu  Qatada Ruling  Threatens
Absolute Ban  on Torture. Assurances by Jordan Won't Protect
Terrorism Suspect  from Torture,  London, March 1, 2007; see
also Amnesty  International, "UK  must stop  deportations to
torture states," March 1, 2007, at www.amnesty.org

[5] "How  the law  and UN  define torture,"  The  Telegraph,

[6]  Alasdair   Palmer,  "Even  our  judges  seem  drawn  to
extremism," The Telegraph, June 22, 2008.

[7] Philip  Johnston, Abu  Hamza extradition is no cause for
rejoice, The Telegraph, June 23, 2008.

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