Abu Qatada landlord wins press gagging order

Journalists must not name or harass a landlord who owns the property where freed radical cleric Abu Qatada is staying, a High Court judge said today.

Mr Justice Tugendhat heard that the landlord was the subject of “intense and very intrusive media scrutiny” and wanted to be left alone.

The landlord had not realised that Qatada would move into the property and found himself at the centre of media attention through no fault of his own, a lawyer told the judge.

Qatada was freed on bail on 13 February after being held for six-and-a-half years while fighting deportation.

High Court judge Mrs Justice Dobbs made an order preventing publication of the landlord’s name on February 15, after a lawyer made an application by telephone.

Mr Justice Tugendhat ruled today that the order should continue after being given evidence at a High Court hearing in London.

He said he intended to issue an amended order – and give reasons for banning publication of the landlord’s name – in the near future.

Mrs Justice Dobbs’ order prohibits the publication of the landlord’s name or image and prohibits journalists from “harassing (or) pestering” him.

Leonie Hirst, for the landlord, today asked Mr Justice Tugendhat to continue the prohibitions, saying: “My client’s concern is primarily to be left alone. He wants journalists to stop pursuing him and his family at his home. Through no fault … of his own he is now the subject of intense and very intrusive media scrutiny.”

Defendants at today’s hearing were listed as “media respondents”, but none appeared in court and none was legally represented.

Mr Justice Tugendhat said he would issue a new order soon and said Mrs Justice Dobbs’ order remained in force.

Qatada, 51, won an appeal against deportation from the UK to Jordan in the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in January.

He was released from prison on conditional bail after judges in Strasbourg ruled he could not be deported without assurances from Jordan that evidence gained through torture would not be used against him.

Qatada, a father-of-five, claimed asylum when he arrived in Britain in September 1993, on a forged passport, and was convicted in his absence in Jordan of being involved in two terrorist conspiracies in 1999.

He was detained in 2002, when an immigration court described him as a “truly dangerous individual”, and has issued a series of fatwas, or religious rulings, in support of the killing of of those who do not believe in Islam.

A number of his videos was also found in the Hamburg flat of Mohammed Atta, one of the ringleaders of the 9/11 hijackers.

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