A terrorism suspect alleged to have deep ties to Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida has been set free on bail, British officials said Thursday in the second such case in less than three weeks after courts ruled the men could not be kept in jail indefinitely.
Authorities stressed that like the first case, draconian bail conditions deny the suspect any unmonitored contact with the outside world. But the release was another setback for Britain's faltering effort to keep suspected extremists behind bars.
The 45-year-old Algerian – identified only as “U” – may not leave his home or have visitors, except for a lawyer, doctor or social worker. He is denied access to the Internet and cannot use a cell phone or a computer. Police have the right to search his home any time they want.
His new address is supposed to be kept secret, but British Broadcasting Corp. reported that some journalists had been given printed reports containing the details.
In the earlier case, radical preacher Abu Qatada was set free with similar bail conditions June 17 – although he is allowed to leave home for two hours each day.
“U” has been accused of taking part in a number of terror plots, including an unsuccessful plan to bomb Los Angeles International Airport in 1999 and a scheme to detonate a large bomb at the popular Christmas market in Strasbourg, France, the following year.
The suspect was taken into custody seven months before the Sept. 11 attack in the U.S. and is alleged to have played an important role in planning earlier al-Qaida attacks that were thwarted or called off. He is accused of being most active during the period when al-Qaida was developing sleeper cells in many parts of the world during the run-up to Sept. 11.
British court documents refer to the suspect only as “U” due to a court order that prevents him from being publicly identified. A U.S. indictment, later dropped because the key witness refused to testify, identified him only by an alias.