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Britain To Release Terror Suspects

A British judge on Friday granted bail to eight foreign terror suspects, including a radical Muslim cleric accused of links to al Qaeda, who have been held for up to three years under emergency anti-terrorism laws.

The suspects include Abu Qatada, a Muslim cleric dubbed Osama bin Laden's "spiritual ambassador to Europe." Qatada is accused of having extensive contacts with terrorists worldwide.

Mr. Justice Duncan Ouseley set strict bail conditions for the men, including a nighttime curfew, restrictions on who they can meet and on their access to mobile phones and the Internet. Qatada will also be prevented from preaching at mosques or leading prayers under the conditions of his bail.

After the Sept. 11 attacks, Qatada was named by the U.S. Treasury as a terrorist supporter and his assets were frozen. Weeks after the attacks, he railed publicly against corrupt Western governments and spoke of his "respect" for bin Laden.

Former British Home Secretary David Blunkett said Qatada's sermons as an extremist Islamist preacher had been "an inspiration" for terrorists, including Mohammed Atta, the lead hijacker behind the Sept. 11 attacks.

The men were held under a law passed in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorism attacks, which allowed the indefinite detention of some foreign terror suspects without trial.

In December, Britain's highest court ruled that the law was illegal and breached the European Convention on Human Rights. The powers under which the strict bail conditions are set expire on Monday.

Prime Minister Tony Blair overcame intense opposition to a new anti-terrorism law Friday, granting concessions that ended a bitter standoff between the government and political opponents in Parliament.

New powers to detain terror suspects under house arrest, impose curfews and electronic tagging without trial were likely to be approved by the House of Lords later Friday and become law, a Conservative Party official told The Associated Press.