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Qatada freedom blocked by judge

Abu Qatada's bid for freedom has been blocked by a judge due to Britain's terror threat at the Olympics.

Allowing the radical preacher free on London's streets would be "exceptionally problematic" during heightened security at the Games, ruled a Special Immigration Appeals Commission (Siac) hearing.

Qatada, who is accused of involvement in several bomb attacks, will remain in a British prison for at least another five months as he launches fresh action against the Government's bid to deport him.

Mr Justice Mitting cited "the very high level of demand in resources" highlighted by Home Office barrister Robin Tam QC.

"There will be a very high level of demand in those resources in order to protect the UK during this period," said Mr Tam. "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."

Qatada's lawyers said they would take his fight against deportation back to Europe if Siac rules against him at a tribunal in October. Qatada was not present as the judge told a central London courtroom of his frustration that the case had already taken so long.

He said: "This case has gone on for an unconscionable amount of time and must be brought to a conclusion one way or another."

Edward Fitzgerald QC, representing Qatada, said the case would need a "significant" amount of time. Arguing Qatada's right to be released, Mr Fitzgerald said "it would be quite wrong for him to remain in prison for another six months".

Mr Tam said the proceedings should be "straightforward", adding: "This is not the time to be dragging things out until the last minute."

Mr Justice Mitting told lawyers that another hearing could take place on July 24 but said the full tribunal would not begin until October 10.

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