Abu Qatada case: UK agrees assistance treaty with Jordan


Home Secretary Theresa May warned that the legal process "may well still take many months"

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The government has signed a mutual assistance treaty with Jordan to ensure that radical cleric Abu Qatada can be deported, Theresa May has told MPs.

The home secretary said the treaty had guarantees on fair trials within it.

The government is doing "everything it can" to deport Abu Qatada, she said.

The move comes after she failed to get the case referred to the Supreme Court to reverse a ruling that the radical cleric could face an unfair trial if sent to Jordan to face terror charges.

Mrs May is to apply directly to the Supreme Court for permission to challenge that ruling.

The treaty would come into play should the Supreme Court reject the government's request.

The withdrawal of the UK from the European Convention on Human Rights is another option being explored by the prime minister, said Mrs May, who added that it was "sensible" to have "all options on the table".

But cabinet minister and former home secretary Ken Clarke dismissed that idea, saying it is "not the policy of this government".

'Every chance'

Giving a statement to the Commons, Mrs May said the treaty would have to be ratified by the UK and Jordan.

She said she believed it would satisfy concerns that Abu Qatada would not receive a fair trial there, and there was now "every chance" of deporting the cleric.

Is this treaty the real deal?

The UK originally signed a "memorandum of understanding" with Jordan in 2005 in an effort to deport Abu Qatada.

That talked about fair trials for deportees - but it did not define what fairness meant - or refer specifically to how those trials would be conducted.

Its harshest critics said it was a grubby attempt by the UK to duck its international commitment to oppose torture.

This new treaty clearly states that torture-tainted evidence cannot be used in court against someone who is deported.

These are strong words - but the question now is whether these words can be made real. Judges here and at the European Court of Human Rights have laid down a very stringent test.

It is going to be for the government to show that test has been met.

However, Mrs May added that even once the agreement was fully ratified, Abu Qatada would still be able to launch a legal appeal. This could mean it may still be months before he is deported.

Mrs May told the Commons: "I believe these guarantees will provide the courts with the assurance that Qatada will not face evidence that might have been obtained by torture, in a retrial in Jordan."

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said she was willing to work with the government towards Abu Qatada's deportation, but accused Mrs May in the past of "overstating her legal strategy, which has not worked".

On the possibility of the UK temporarily withdrawing from the European Convention on Human Rights, Mrs May said it was her view that the UK needed to "fix that relationship".

BBC political correspondent Vicki Young said any suspension of the UK's membership of the ECHR is almost unprecedented and the Lib Dems are insisting they would block it.

She said: "We're told that the failure to deport Abu Qatada makes David Cameron's blood boil and he's ordered ministers to find a solution.

"The best case scenario for the government is that the Supreme Court agrees to hear the case and rules that Qatada can be deported, but few think that likely."

Mr Clarke, a former home secretary, told BBC Radio 4's World at One programme: "If I was asked my advice on that by any of my colleagues I would say I don't think that's got the faintest thing to do with the case with Abu Qatada.

"It is not the policy of this government to withdraw either for any short period or any lengthy period from the European Convention on Human Rights."

'Denial of justice'

The Special Immigration Appeals Commission (Siac), which adjudicates on national security-related deportations, ruled last year that Abu Qatada should not be removed from the UK because his retrial could be tainted by evidence obtained by torturing the cleric's former co-defendants.

Mrs May had argued she had obtained fresh assurances that would guarantee the fair treatment of the preacher on his return to Amman.

But the Court of Appeal upheld Siac's decision last month, saying the lower court had not misinterpreted nor misapplied the law.

Yvette Cooper: Theresa May has "overstated her legal strategy"

Government lawyers had stressed that Jordan had banned torture and the use in trial of statements extracted under duress.

But the Court of Appeal judges said Siac had been entitled to think there was a risk the "impugned statements" would be used in evidence during a retrial and there was "a real risk of a flagrant denial of justice".

The Supreme Court can reconsider Court of Appeal decisions if the justices are convinced there is a "point of law of general public importance".

On 17 April 2012, the home secretary told the Commons that, following fresh assurances from Jordan that he would get a fair trial, "we can soon put Qatada on a plane and get him out of our country for good".

Bids for freedom before the European Court of Human Rights and the High Court followed before Abu Qatada's successful appeal to Siac in November.

Abu Qatada was re-arrested and returned to Belmarsh prison in March, following an alleged breach of bail conditions, concerning the use of communications equipment at his home.

Who is Abu Qatada? Abu Qatada was born in Bethlehem in 1960 and spent his early life in Jordan. He fled to Pakistan in 1989 claiming political persecution and eventually arrived in the UK in 1993. Abu Qatada was part of a wave of Islamists who sought refuge in the UK during the 1980s and 90s, often exiled from the Arab regimes they were trying to overthrow.
Algerian Islamists pray, 1992 Abu Qatada emerged as a key voice in the Islamist movement in London, which advocated strict Islamic government in Muslim countries and armed struggle against despots and foreign invaders. His preachings and ideas won him influence among Islamist groups in Algeria and Egypt during the 1990s. He was tried and found guilty in his absence of terrorism offences in Jordan in 1999.
Ruins of the World Trade Center By 2001 fears were growing about Abu Qatada's hard-line views. He endorsed suicide attacks in a BBC interview and was questioned in connection with a German terror cell. Copies of his sermons were found in the Hamburg flat used by some of the 9/11 attackers and Spanish judge Balthazar Garzon described him as the "spiritual head of the mujahideen in Britain". In December 2001, Abu Qatada disappeared and became one of the UK's most wanted men.
Abu Qatada in 2005 In October 2002 Abu Qatada was arrested and detained without charge. He was released in 2005 and put under strict house arrest, but months later was arrested under immigration rules and moves began to deport him to Jordan to face retrial on the charges he had been convicted of six years earlier. In 2007 he lost his immigration case, but the Court of Appeal later ruled that deportation to a regime which uses torture - ie Jordan - would breach his human rights.
BBC The Court of Appeal ruling was overturned by the Law Lords in early 2009, and the then Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith (L), signed a deportation order. Abu Qatada then appealed to the European Court, which eventually ruled that he could not be deported while the risk of torture remained. In 2012 Home Secretary Theresa May (R) pressed ahead with deportation, but this was blocked amid a row over the appeal deadline.
Abu Qatada In November 2012 Abu Qatada was released from prison once more after a UK court backed his appeal on the grounds that witness evidence obtained by torture could be used against him at trial in Jordan. That was a disastrous blow to the Home Office because it meant the only way the deportation could happen would be if Jordan changed its system to ensure torture-tainted evidence could not be used.
Abu Qatada Abu Qatada was then returned to prison on 9 March 2013 after an alleged breach of his bail conditions - but this deportation was still blocked. Weeks later, Home Secretary Theresa May announced a new UK-Jordan treaty to improve co-operation in criminal investigations. That treaty included a guarantee of a fair trial free of torture-tainted evidence for anyone sent back to Jordan. Abu Qatada's lawyers announced he would now return to Jordan.

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  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    The real power in this country can do anything. Why are they keeping this alleged radical?

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    This is totally stupid! Why should we pay to keep him in this country but yet we won't help the poor grandmother who is in Thailand facing the death Penalty for been forced into drug smuggling!??? And she has no money to fight her corner any more. Yet this chap gets away with everything and will be living here for free and clearly he wont have a job - who would employ him??

  • Comment number 35.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    Home Secretary 2013 : I am getting tough !
    Home Secretary 2012 : I am getting tough !
    Home Secretary 2011 : I am getting tough !
    Home Secretary 2010 : I am getting tough !
    Home Secretary 2009 : I am getting tough !
    Home Secretary 1009 BC : I am getting tough !

    Is being a sadist part of the remit for the Home Secretary

    All they ever do is getting tough

    This man aside, this really is brainless

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    It's funny how we're constantly told that the british legal system is th envy of the world... but the only people saying it are the lawyers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    Is this the Daily mail afternoon club? Fair trial.... rule of law.... no torture were British.... none seem to matter to the top posters!

    For what it's worth I reckon far too much fuss is being made about the whole fiasco and far too much money has been spent cos May just doesn't want to lose face!

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    Whatever it takes. It's about time we started telling Brussels when to take a hike.

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    Why are we becoming the worlds saviour? We are not 'trying' to deport him to the Congo, we are 'trying' to deport him to his OWN country! He came here illegally, he shouldn't have any, so-called, 'rights'.

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    Why cann't our secret service just knock him off and worry about the liver bellied human rights lawers after.

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    let UKIP deal with him. bet he would be ob the first plane out of the uk.
    roll on 2015 i WONT be voting for the so called top 3

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    21. SentinelRed
    I don't understand why we can't hold a Jordanian court here in the UK- as per the Lockerbie Bomber.
    Firstly the Lockerbie bomber was tried in Holland not the UK (under Scottish Law) however we'd then have to keep him forever in a British Max security prison at £80,000 a year.

    Its worth pointing out too how much was spent not deporting Brian McKinnon.

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    Exactly how much has this cost the taxpayer so far?

    We are unable to deport him because he will not get a fair trial in Jordan. I would say that could be said of any country in the world as the case has now become infamous because judges are unable to make the decision to remove him from the UK.

    He is not welcome and we don't want him here but let's hpe the treat will do the trick.

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    At some point OUR judiciary have to stop casting unwarranted aspersions on the judicial systems of other countries. Jordan certainly has yet to reach the levels of Western justice but they have to be helped and trusted on that journey. If the US refused to extradite someone to the UK because of the Birmingham 6 nearly 40 years ago, what would we think?

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    He's wanted in Jordan on terrorism charges but we cannot extradite him as he is not guaranteed a fair trial(i.e the possibility that evidence about him has been given under torture), which is a bit confusing as he's apparently already been tried/convicted in Jordan..in his absence (in 1999) Or have I got it wrong..and it that HE would be subjected to torture if he goes back?

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    why dont we just send him to the european court of human rights if they are so concerned for his welfare?

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    It is a complete joke that a modern country such as this does not have the power to remove an evil individual like Qatada. I look forward to the day when the government can remove anyone of his nature without hindrance.

    As for his human rights? What about the rights of those he preaches to destroy? He is a coward, hiding behind his 'rights' when he preaches to destroy the rights of others

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    I don't understand why we can't hold a Jordanian court here in the UK- as per the Lockerbie Bomber. It beggers belief that this case is burning though money at an obscene rate yet UK citizens are struggling to feed and clothe their own families.

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    Sod it, I will do it.

    Send him round my house and I will force him on a plane with me and we will go to Jordan, then when I get back the courts can really tell me off.

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    If I were as unpopular as he is I'd be expecting to get killed any moment. We must be spending the earth protecting him. Why don't we just stop?

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    Feels like Groundhog Day.


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