Abu Qatada Is Released From Prison

Mark White, home affairs correspondent

Radical cleric Abu Qatada has been released from jail and back into the community - as Sky News learned the path appeared to have been cleared for his deportation from the UK.

Official sources confirmed that final bail conditions were approved by both sides on Monday morning and the 51-year-old Palestinian was released from Long Lartin prison in Worcestershire after he had been processed by prison authorities.

But a Jordanian government minister told Sky News that his country recently passed new legislation to ensure no evidence gained through torture can be used in Jordanian courts.

The assurance could be critical in British government efforts to secure the deportation of Qatada to Jordan.

The European Court of Human Rights ruled last month that Qatada should not be extradited to Jordan for fear the evidence used to secure his conviction on terror charges had been obtained through torture.

But the Jordanian legislative affairs minister Ayman Odeh said his government had passed legislation last September prohibiting the use of torture evidence.

"Any evidence obtained from torture or the threat of torture should not be admissible before the courts in Jordan," he said.

"We are confident that once we have the chance to make these statements through the diplomatic channels to the relevant court, they will be taken into consideration."

The Home Office Minister James Brokenshire will be told of the law change when he visits Jordanian Justice officials this week.

Qatada, described as al Qaeda's spiritual leader in Europe, will be subject to strict bail conditions.

He will have to wear an electronic tag, be confined to his home address for 22 hours a day and he will not be able to access the internet or telephone.

In addition, the cleric - who Home Secretary Theresa May has described as posing a "real threat to the UK's national security" - will not be allowed to take his children to school.

The bail conditions are some of the toughest imposed since the 9/11 terror attacks.

The cleric has been held for six-and-a-half years, more than any other detainee in modern immigration history, while fighting deportation to Jordan, where he has been convicted of terrorism charges in his absence.

However, he was released on bail after human rights judges in Europe ruled he could not be deported to Jordan without assurances from authorities there that evidence gained through torture was not and will not be used against him to secure a conviction.

Under the terms of his release, set by the Special Immigrations Appeals Commission, the Home Secretary has just three months to show the Government is making significant progress in securing his deportation or risk Qatada being freed from his bail conditions.

An official spokesman for Prime Minister David Cameron said: "We are clear that we want to remove Abu Qatada at the earliest possible opportunity.

"In the meantime we have asked for the strictest possible bail measures to be in place.

"We are committed to removing him, and we are looking at all the options."

But the opposition criticised the Government's lack of speed.

"It is clear the Government has not done all it can to stop Abu Qatada being released from high-security prison," Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper said.

"As soon as the European Court judgement was delivered a month ago now the Government could have appealed the decision and begun urgent negotiations with the Jordanian Government.

"Instead the Government did nothing, leaving a judge to decide there was little progress being made in deporting Qatada and that bail was the only option."

Qatada, also known as Omar Othman, was convicted by the Jordanians of involvement with terror attacks in 1998 and has featured in hate sermons found on videos in the flat of one of the 9/11 hijackers.

Last week, the Prime Minister David Cameron and King Abdullah of Jordan agreed on the "importance of finding an effective resolution" to his case.

Mr Cameron told King Abdullah of the "frustrating and difficult" position Britain was in over its efforts to deport the Islamist radical.

Sky News understands Abu Qatada will live under close supervision in the north London borough of Wembley.