Quilliam’s Senior Researcher in Islamic Studies Usama Hasan contributes to this Sunday Times article on Abu Qatada’s encouragement of jihadis in Syria from his prison cell in Jordan.

THE hate preacher Abu Qatada has issued his first edict for years from a cell in Jordan — where he is held on remand — urging his followers to continue with jihad in Syria.

The cleric, once described as Osama bin Laden’s “right-hand man” in Europe, has told extremists to remain committed to the “conquest” of Jerusalem.

Abu Qatada, who was extradited from Britain to Jordan in July following a protracted legal battle which cost taxpayers more than £1.7m, apologised for the delayed message of support to jihadists fighting the Assad regime.

In an Arabic letter that has been widely circulated on Islamist websites, he implied that restrictions placed on him while in the UK prevented him from praising his jihadist “brothers” earlier.

Security sources believe that Abu Qatada, who was once deemed a security threat to the UK, wrote the letter from inside the Muwaqqar rehabilitation and correctional centre in Jordan where he is awaiting trial for a string of terrorism offences, which he denies.

The letter has emerged following reports that four British jihadists were killed fighting alongside al-Qaeda-affiliated groups in Syria. An estimated 200 British fighters have gone to Syria.

Usama Hasan, a senior researcher at the Quilliam Foundation, a think tank, said Abu Qatada’s seven-page letter was his way of saying: “‘I’m back — listen to me’.”

Hasan added: “He still has a strong constituency. He hasn’t been accused of betraying the cause or selling out. He is regarded as a religious scholar in those jihadist circles so his words will carry some authority, especially when he’s trying to talk about reconciliation and peace among the jihadi groups.”

It is understood that the police and MI5 are aware of the letter which has been downloaded more than 12,000 times from Islamist websites.

“The number of times it has been downloaded indicates how people regard him — he remains an influential character,” a security source told The Sunday Times.

Click here to read the original article in The Sunday Times (£).