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 157.

    Its a shame that we aren't more like America. This man would have been put in the electric chair long ago instead of making a mockery to the system. He is basically laughing at this country.

    Soon as we leave the EU, we need to vote for the death sentence. It would make murders or rapists or terror suspects think twice.

    This country is a joke the way they handled this situation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 156.

    Just get 10 good men to place him on an aircraft and deliver him to his native land where his countyrmen can decide his fate.

    It's costing the British tax-payer untold millions to keep this guy and his tribe here - deport them and be done with it!

    For heaven's sake, just DO IT!

  • rate this

    Comment number 155.

    another failure of an attempt to get rid of Qatada from what has to be the worst or the one of the worst home secretary Britain has ever had. When will this women get it into her thick minded head that it does not matter how many assurances or treaties that gets agreed with Jordan as long as she abides by the Europeans humans rights rubbish and the rubbish courts here then he is staying.

  • rate this

    Comment number 154.

    Jordan is a very peaceful, moderate, modern country. He will get a fair trial there. This is good work all around. He will be judged by his peers although I can well understand why he might be reluctant to face them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 153.

    We have Magna Carta and Habeas Corpus. The law applies to everybody, even people you find completely distasteful. Evidence in a court of law is what is required. It's one of the prices of democracy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 152.

    We should not condone torture. If we do, we let the terrorists win by dropping to their standards. But, if he is proven to be a danger to the UK or we have substantial evidence that he committed a crime abroad then he should not be bailed. He should be in a secure jail until this matter is sorted.

  • rate this

    Comment number 151.

    If we hadn't allowed him in to the country (as an asylum seeker) in the first place we wouldn't be in this position. Millions of pounds wasted and this nation a more dangerous place because of him.

    When will successive governments stop sacrificing the safety and care of it's own citizens before those of potentially dangerous individuals from abroad.

  • rate this

    Comment number 150.

    Actually just shooting him would be cheaper than putting him on a plane, or perhaps he could repay some of the vitriol by becoming a 'lab rat'

  • rate this

    Comment number 149.

    There are many ways to skin a cat just announce he has converted to Catholicism his own people will get rid of him.

  • rate this

    Comment number 148.

    136. Wandalust1956
    Ah, it appears that it is not that HE will be tortured if he goes to Jordan..its that evidence AGAINST him may of been obtained by torture and is therefore dubious. Why doesn't someone examine that evidence and decide if it was obtained under torture?
    And if "someone" says it WAS obtained through torture what do you suggest then....?

  • rate this

    Comment number 147.

    40 Minutes ago

    In this case the courts have been shown to be not fit for purpose.


    It`s not the courts job to write laws, merely apply them. If there`s a problem then it`s governments that have to change the law as it is written.

  • rate this

    Comment number 146.

    Maggie wouldn't have put up with this rubbish.

  • rate this

    Comment number 145.

    Can someone post the list of charges against Abu Qatada here? I can't find them on-line and would like to know more about this story. Thanks.

  • rate this

    Comment number 144.

    I`m no Tory voter but if May just put him on a plane and got rid of him, regardless what the courts say, she would get my full support. She needs to just remove him so as to protect the human rights of the millions of people who live in the UK.


  • rate this

    Comment number 143.

    137. Why is it the government's fault? Explain!

    Yvette Cooper: Theresa May has "overstated her legal strategy". What a helpful comment from someone playing politics with national security. How pathetic, and yet people will still vote for her/them!

  • rate this

    Comment number 142.

    just get him on the plane, no one cares what happens to him in Jordan, heavens forbid he actually gets what he deserves....justice

  • rate this

    Comment number 141.

    He's an illegal immigrant so I can't understand how he has managed to secure a house and benefits. Oh, I forgot. Blair's mission to destroy one thousand years of British heritage and history.
    Chuck him out now, with a metaphorical finger up him and two to the EU.

  • rate this

    Comment number 140.

    (Sighs) And yet again the Tory Government and it's loyal followers on here decide to press the "Blame Brussels" panic button.
    You're running out of Parades, funerals Olympics and Jubilees Tory/UKIP voters and the bread and circuses can't protect you forever.

  • rate this

    Comment number 139.

    If he was accused of blowing up Syrians then William Hague would be having him round for tea

  • rate this

    Comment number 138.

    109. adriancannon Islam is not a race, its a belief or ideology. Love how the old race card is played when someone who has intolerant ideas and hatred rather than rationality or reasoning is allowed to spout hate hidden under "race". Plenty of black, white, Asian and yes Muslims who abide by the law would be glad to see the back of him. Playing the old race card=last resort of the thought police.


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