A British court has granted bail to a radical Muslim preacher accused of close ties with al-Qaida, Britain's Home Office said Thursday.
Abu Qatada, who had been jailed in Britain since 2002, was released by the Special Immigration Appeals Commission, on condition that he respect a 22-hour curfew.
Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said she was extremely disappointed with the decision but would "take all steps necessary to protect the public." The British government has accused Abu Qatada of "long-established connections" with al-Qaida, Egypt's Islamic Jihad and other terror groups.
In April, Abu Qatada won an important court victory against the British government, which had been trying to deport him to his native Jordan, where he has been convicted in connection with two 1998 bombings.
The Court of Appeal told the government to stop extradition proceedings against Abu Qatada because he faces the threat of torture, dealing a major blow to government plans to send foreign-born terrorist suspects back to their homelands.
He was due to have remained in prison as the government appealed the decision, but the commission ruled that he could be granted bail.
Smith said the Home Office would continue its effort to try to force Qatada back to Jordan.