Abu Qatada case: UK agrees assistance treaty with Jordan


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

Related Stories

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.

More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 97.

    It's all about evidence, not the man.

    Get some proper evidence, not procured by torture or some other dodgy means and the courts will do their job. Until then they are doing their job by refusing the extradition.

    Public opinion isn't evidence either.

  • rate this

    Comment number 96.

    But he's already been tried & convicted (in his absence) in Jordan. Are the reasons for not deporting him that the evidence used in that trial (in 1999) was dubious (i.e given under torture) or that if he goes back he will be tortured? If the former, then surely HR team goes to Jordan & reviews all the evidence/trial..if all OK then off he goes. If not - retrial in Jordan via video link here?

  • Comment number 95.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 94.

    Why not just print his address and withdraw police protection? He'd be off in a jiffy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 93.


    "If a slavering loon was running down your high street with a scythe, you'd want him locked up."

    Yes but running round the street with an offensive weapon is an offence. Would we want to lock a slavering loon for wanting to run down the street with a scythe but not actually doing it? Slippery slope, your in Guatanamo/Blair/Bush territory there.

  • rate this

    Comment number 92.

    This whole fiasco hinges on what MIGHT/COULD. If I have assurances from another government, that should be the end of it. Send him anyway and one way or another we will find out what WILL happen. That will solve the problem one way or another. If his legal team are so concerned with regards to his well-being, then send them also. As for our legal system, it wasn't broke until Brussels fixed it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 91.

    This is what happens when you are governed by Brussels.

  • rate this

    Comment number 90.

    "Putin’s method of dealing enemies of state seems a lot less costly to the tax payer."

    If you want to live in a state that doesn't allow terrifying, authoritarian acts from those in power you have to accept that sometimes people who don't really deserve civility will still get it.

    Laws are imperfect, but it's better to be on the side of the individual and not the government.

  • rate this

    Comment number 89.

    Is he now in a prison for his own protection? or is he being charged with something? Is his food tasted for poison there?
    Do we allow him to stay without proper permission from when he first arrived?
    Not all seems clear

  • rate this

    Comment number 88.

    They spend all this time on one individual when they know that hundreds of thousands (actually close to half a million) people move to the UK each year and they know next to nothing about any of them.

    Does anyone think this might be a problem?

  • rate this

    Comment number 87.

    This has been going on since 2002, and so I am not sure why they are so critical. Given the legal position it is clear that assurances from the Jordanian Government haven't been trusted regarding the risk of torture. Hopefully these new measures will allow him to go but I wonder whether Political Party scoring over the last decade has actually complicated his exit rather than helping it.

  • Comment number 86.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 85.

    He will end up running rings around May and Cameron again.He should just be put on a plane to Jordan but this will not happen as Cameron and May are pathetic weak and spineless and he will continue to make fools of them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 84.

    I'm pleasantly surprised that the BBC would open this up to comment as it is such a polarising issue.

  • rate this

    Comment number 83.

    Matt Cheam

    If he 'encouraged hatred and violence against the UK' that would be a crime in this country and he would have been charged under the terrorism act. But he wasnt and hasnt... but obviously you dont have enough brain cells to understand that. Jog on pal!

    So what is his crime? He called for revolution in Jordan, a close ally of ours, so that makes him a terrorist. DIRTY POLITICS!

  • rate this

    Comment number 82.

    I wonder how many of the peolpe screaming for his deportation are actually able to describe his crimes?

    I'm reckoning less than half, probably less than a third.

    The rest all jumping upon the media bandwagon, waving their pitchforks & torches at the bogeyman.

    The self righteous power of a good media frenzy, eh?

  • rate this

    Comment number 81.

    @54....good argument, playing the "race card", that's a new one. Shame he's not being sent to America.....still I guess it's pretty hard to see the facts from way up there on your high horse. Also Mckinnon was a UK citizen, this fella is an illegal immigrant and therefore not entitled to the same level of legal protection from the UK.

  • rate this

    Comment number 80.

    Put him in a room with a telephone, give him 4 hours to find a country of his choice that will take him. Then either fly him there or take him to Jordan. He will have had his chance to find somewhere to suit him, he's here illegally anyway.

  • rate this

    Comment number 79.

    Much of our Sovereign Law was handed to Europe (as a prelude to Federal Union)?

    If UK were to temporarily exit from the ECHR, the only purpose being to circumvent ECHR Law, it is possible UK would be seen as being in Contempt of Court [ECtHR].

    What would prevent another in out in out in out of any and all laws?

    Get him a trial on the Hague with all prosecutors/defenders as is morally right.

  • rate this

    Comment number 78.

    48. Tanglewood
    The only issue here is that a foreign national...has clearly acted in ways contrary to the life, liberty and property of UK citizens.
    In which case 12 Uk citzens (commonly called a Jury) should find him guilty in a court of law & another UK citizen (Called a Judge) should sentence him to a long period in prison. Thats the difference between the UK & the middle east.


Page 50 of 54


More UK stories



BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.