Al Qaeda wants swap deal for Abu Qatada
Extremists in North Africa have offered to free a British hostage if the UK changes its plans to deport a radical cleric to Jordan, according to statement released online.
“The initiative to the British government is to release its citizen Stephen Malcolm... if it deports Abu Qatada to one of the ‘Arab Spring’ countries [Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Yemen],” read the web statement purportedly from Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.
Brit Stephen Malcolm is thought to be one of nine Europeans seized by the Al Qaeda branch in Mali and Niger since September 2010.
Britain said this month it would resume plans to deport radical Abu Qatada to Jordan, where he has been convicted, in absentia, of involvement in militant plots.
However, the purported Al Qaeda statement continued: “If Britain ignores this offer it will bear the consequences of handing Abu Qatada to the Jordanian government.”
The Jordanian preacher had been under virtual house arrest in London since February, when he was freed from a British prison after a court said his detention without trial was unlawful. The European Court of Human Rights ruled in January that he would not receive a fair trial in Jordan because evidence against him might have been obtained through torture.
London says it has received assurances of a fair trial and that Abu Qatada would be tried by civilian judges in a court used to hearing criminal cases and not a quasi-military body. The case would be heard in public and his conviction in absentia would be quashed.