Judge: Qatada must stay in custody

Radical preacher Abu Qatada must remain in custody following his arrest for allegedly breaching his bail conditions, a judge has ruled.

UK Border Agency officials arrested Qatada on Friday, days ahead of the Government's latest deportation bid in court, following raids by the Metropolitan Police Service Counter Terrorism unit.

Mr Justice Irwin, chairman of the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC), refused to grant Qatada bail at a telephone hearing, a spokesman for the Judicial Office said. He was ordered to return to Belmarsh prison ahead of a further hearing to take place on March 21.

The court heard evidence suggesting Qatada had broken his bail condition which prohibits him from permitting mobile phones to be switched on in his house while he is present, the spokesman added.

A spokesman for the Judicial Office said: "At a telephone hearing this afternoon with lawyers for both sides, Mr Justice Irwin, chairman of SIAC, ordered the return of Omar Othman, otherwise known as Abu Qatada, to prison. There was material before SIAC suggesting he had breached his bail conditions. There will be a further hearing in the matter on March 21, giving both sides the opportunity to submit more evidence in the matter."

In his ruling, Mr Justice Irwin said there was "strong prima facie evidence" that Qatada had breached a bail condition which prohibits him from having mobile telephones switched on in his house while he is present. It also bans communications equipment such as digital media devices, rewritable CDs and pen drives being brought into his house.

Qatada will initially be held by the Metropolitan Police before returning to Belmarsh prison later, the judge ordered. Further consideration of bail will be brought before SIAC on Thursday March 21, he added.

A Home Office spokesman said: "We are pleased the Special Immigration Appeals Commission has decided to revoke bail for this individual on an interim basis following serious breaches of his bail conditions. We will vigorously argue our case at the next hearing on March 21."

Officers completed searches at four properties in connection with ongoing inquiries by the Counter Terrorism Command but found no hazardous materials, Scotland Yard said. No arrests have been made in connection with the police investigation.

Qatada, who has been convicted of terror charges in Jordan, is due to appear at the Court of Appeal on Monday for Home Secretary Theresa May's bid to overturn a judge's decision to allow him to stay in the UK.