DUBAI (AFP) – Al-Qaeda threatened on Tuesday to attack Britain if it decides to extradite to Jordan the radical Islamist Abu Qatada, once believed to be an aide to Osama bin Laden.
In a statement signed by Al-Qaeda’s general command and published on jihadist forums, the terror network said Abu Qatada’s extradition would “open the gates of evil” on “Britain and its citizens everywhere.”
“We warn the British government against extraditing Sheikh Abu Qatada to Jordan,” where he faces terror charges, said the statement, which called on London to “act with reason and wisdom … or it will regret it.”
The 51-year-old Jordanian, labelled the right-hand man of bin Laden by a Spanish judge, was convicted in Jordan in absentia for involvement in terror attacks in 1998, and faces a retrial on his return.
For six years, Britain has been trying to extradite the radical cleric, arguing he is a threat to national security, but its efforts have been thwarted on human rights grounds.
In Jordan, As-Sabeel, the Muslim Brotherhood’s daily newspaper, said on its website that Abu Qatada recently telephoned a top Salafist leader in the kingdom and discussed with them “his conditions to return to the country.”
The paper quoted Abu Mohammad al-Tahawi as saying: “Abu Qatada has telephoned me and said all the false charges against him must be dropped first in order to agree to return to Jordan.”
“Abu Qatada added that if he accepts to come back, he does not want to be dealt with as a ‘security issue,'” it said.
Citing Islamist sources, As-Sabeel said Abu Qatada has demanded British authorities provide him with “written assurances by King Abdullah II to make sure he gets a decent life in the kingdom.”
Amman has pledged that Abu Qatada would get a “fair and transparent” trial if London extradites him.
Abu Qatada, in a British prison for the past six years, was released on bail on February 13. He has never been formally charged by British authorities.
In early March, British Home Secretary Theresa May held talks with Jordanian officials over Abu Qatada’s extradition but no formal decision has been announced.
The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg ruled in January that London cannot deport Abu Qatada because evidence used against him in any Jordanian trial may have been obtained through torture.
In Tuesday’s statement, Al-Qaeda claimed the Islamist “has no organisational links” to the extremist group.