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
    +8

    Comment number 257.

    If Joe Bloggs (UK citizen) was accused as Abu Qatada has been, his arse would not touch the ground.

    Ms May - suggest that you raise the bar a bit as at Post 128.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 256.

    Hopefully the Government's latest move will work. Or are our judges so full of it they will paint themselves into a corner of having to say: "Sorry we think the Jordanian Government to be liars, in fact we choose not to believe anything any sovereign government may say or put down on paper.Yah boo, we are SO clever." I wouldn't put it past them.
    No.202: WE finance him, £0.5m so far and rising.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 255.

    Despite the many passionate views on here judges deal in law not "the greater good". I hope the new treaty makes it possible to deport this nasty man and his family. I would rather he was dealt with in a lawful manner, Britain should not act like a banana republic even in the face of such provocation.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 254.

    these people hide behind stupid followers who buy there bullshit neither the bible or the Koran promote there stupidity they need a degree in humane life , life is precious both say love thy neighbour if Brussels is that fond of him why don't they let him go and live there see if they will pay his bills get rid send him the insect to Brussels

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 253.

    245.VictorsDoubleSussex

    The judiciary are independant from Labour in case you don't know.

    246.aries22

    Yes that will work won't it, isolate ourselves from the international community because we think we are above international law.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 252.

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


    Right now the BBC Moderators would do a better job than Theresa May!

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 251.

    The course of justice tends to be slow, laborious and often frustrating but, if we want to live in a civilised society, we have to acknowledge that the rule of law is universal and embraces even those who have scant regard for any due process. By trying to override the separation of powers and the independence of the judiciary, I think the Government could be setting us on a slippery slope.

  • rate this
    +10

    Comment number 250.

    This sort of thing is creating a great deal of disharmony for the millions of natives of this land - we should consider Their safety and wellbeing in front of the needs of this criminal, illegal immigrant and his tribe. Deport him and his family to any state that uses his religion as the state religion - he will get a fair hearing from his fellows wont he?

  • rate this
    -74

    Comment number 249.

    I am amazed that people think it is ok to pick and choose who gets Human Rights. The key is in the title, Qatada may be an unpleasant person but he is a human being and therefore entitled to the same rights as everyone else. Go ahead and attack me all you want, it doesn't make me wrong.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 248.

    If claims about such people are beyond reasonable doubt, surely it should be a matter of putting them onto a plane immediately and flying them elsewhere.

    Laws are being abused that costs the public

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 247.

    In another 50 years this problem will have sorted itself !

  • rate this
    +12

    Comment number 246.

    We should just put Abu Qatada on a plane to Jordan and say to the European Court of Human Rights, and the human rights organisation Liberty, 'What are you going to do about it? If you've got any issues, address them to Abu Qatada direct - he's the one doing the inciting in our country, and he's the one convicted of crimes in his own country. Take it up with the government of Jordan as well'.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 245.

    It's a bit rich Yvette Cooper preaching to Teresa May when this whole mad situation is down to her time in government and the insane judgements by OUR liberal wooley minded judiciary!! The hypocrisy of the Labour opposition is stunning and the BBC don't add any value to the debate either.

  • Comment number 244.

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

  • Comment number 243.

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

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 242.

    The Wicked Witch would have put Abu on a fast flight to Jordan years ago. Then most likely off with his head after a turn on the thumb screws! It would all be arranged and nothing to do with the Courts.

    If this was going on in Russia then Abu would have met his God some time ago. Mr Putin does not flinch. Just look what happened to poor Pussy Riot girls?

    What is Mrs May fiddling about at?

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 241.

    I feel nothing but disgust for extremists actions.

    I feel nothing but frustration with the ineptitude of successive Home Secretaries in dealing with this situation.

    Theresa May and her advisers appear to have little legal aptitude, the lack of depth to their knowledge leading to massive financial loss to us the taxpayer.

    Build a case using current law, if you can't, give up or charge him in UK.

  • Comment number 240.

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

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 239.

    It's a great shame that this government has become characterised by a tendency to talk before it thinks...on everything from pasties to assisted house purchase. If only TM could have concentrated on her research rather than her desire for publicity we would be rid of this man by now.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 238.

    Two points:

    1. AQ has a significant legal team (who are the real winner in any attempt to spin out any extradition). Q: Who is picking up the tab here?

    2. TM is whinging about the rules/law preventing extradition. Q: Who is responsible for the creation of such rules?

    Everyone knows the answer to #1, but is legal aid really picking up the tab in #1?

 

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