Cleric issues fatwas from British jail

Abu Qatada, in custody since London bombings, praised the "martyrs of Hamas" and cursed Jews.

Abu Qatada 248.88 (photo credit: )
Abu Qatada 248.88
(photo credit: )
An Islamist preacher currently imprisoned in the UK has been issuing pro-jihadist fatwas and anti-Semitic statements from inside a UK prison, a London-based think tank revealed this week. The Quilliam Foundation, a counter-extremism body set up in 2008 by former members of UK-based extremist Islamist organizations, accused Abu Qatada, whom it describes as "one of the world's most influential jihadi theologians," of inciting terrorism after they discovered that he had been issuing fatwas and statements from Long Lartin high-security prison in Worcestershire. The Jordanian national has been in custody in the UK since August 2005. Richard Reid, the mid-Atlantic shoe bomber, and Zacarias Moussaoui, both jailed for involvement in terrorism, are said to have sought religious advice from him. Nineteen audio cassettes of Abu Qatada's sermons were found in Muhammad Atta's apartment when it was searched after the 9/11 attacks. According to the indictment of the Madrid al-Qaida cell, he was also the spiritual leader of al-Qaida in Europe. Research by the think tank has shown that three major statements have circulated globally on English and Arabic-language jihadist Web sites, the most recent being only last month. One statement he made in January, during Operation Cast Lead, praised "the mujahadeen" of al-Qaida and the "martyrs of Hamas," while cursing "the Jews" and "Crusaders." In another statement in June 2008, he justified jihadist attacks on Muslims who join armies and police forces in non-Muslim countries and Muslim countries that oppose al-Qaida. "Whoever fights for taghoot [the forces of disbelief] is kafir [non-believer], and fighting and aiding with your hand and weapons is the highest form of allegiance... [The] apostasy [of those who do so] would be doubled if he fights under their banner against the people of Islam, like those who fight the Muslims in Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Chechnya or Somalia." he said. Last month, he attacked the UK government, accusing it of opposing Islam. "We have defeated the British government, by the virtue of Allah, the most high, and in our imprisonment, there was an uncovering of their filthiness and their criminality and their false claims of humanism. And we were able to demonstrate to the Muslims in Britain specifically, that the government is one which opposes Islam and the Muslims." According to James Brandon, a senior researcher at Quilliam and author of a forthcoming report, "Al-Qaida in our Prisons," Abu Qatada's "fatwas justifying terrorist violence have directly led to jihadist attacks in Algeria and Iraq, as well as helping to inspire the 9/11 attacks and the 2003 Madrid bombings. It is terrifying that the Prison Service has allowed Abu Qatada to repeatedly distribute pro-jihadist texts from within British prisons." The Ministry of Justice has denied the allegations, saying that Abu Qatada was strictly monitored at all times, but added that it was unable to prevent third parties from publishing information which was, or claimed to be, on other people's behalf or in their name.