updated 2/26/2007 4:50:16 PM ET 2007-02-26T21:50:16

A radical Islamic cleric accused of having links to terrorist groups has lost his appeal against deportation to Jordan, an appeals panel ruled on Monday.

The cleric, Abu Qatada, has been accused by the British government of raising funds for extremist groups and offering “spiritual advice and religious legitimacy” to Islamic extremists planning to carry out terrorist attacks.

“We have concluded that there is no real risk of persecution of the appellant were he now to be returned with the safeguards and in the circumstances which now apply to him,” the Special Immigration Appeals Commission said.

Qatada’s case is seen as the first real test of Britain’s plan to deport terrorist suspects to countries with poor human rights records, after securing guarantees that those deported will not be tortured. Opponents claim the agreements, which are not binding, offer no protection to suspects.

Qatada’s lawyer, Gareth Peirce, said she would appeal again. There was no immediate timeframe for the cleric to be deported.

Government attorneys have claimed Qatada, who has been described by a Spanish judge as Osama bin Laden’s “spiritual ambassador in Europe,” is a threat to national security and should be deported to his homeland of Jordan.

Qatada — also known by his real name, Omar Mahmoud Mohammed Othman, and as Omar Abu Omar — has denied supporting terrorism and claimed he would not receive a fair trial if deported to Jordan, where he has been convicted in connection with two 1998 bombings. The cleric, who had been jailed under anti-terrorism laws between 2002 and April 2005 in Britain, was arrested in August and held pending deportation.

Defense fears torture
Lawyers for Qatada claim that evidence against the cleric was obtained by means of torture at a detention facility in Afghanistan.

“It is accepted by our government that Mr. Othman would be tortured in Jordan if it were not for a diplomatic assurance which is not enforceable, which carries no sanction if it is breached,” Peirce said.

The court, however, found Jordan’s assurances credible.

“If he were to be tortured or ill-treated, there probably would be a considerable outcry in Jordan. ... The likely inflaming of Palestinian and extremist or anti-Western feelings would be destabilizing for the government,” the judgment said.

“The Jordanian government would be well aware of that potential risk and, in its own interests, would take steps to ensure that that did not happen.”

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