Abu Qatada: How do Jordanians view treaty with Britain?

Abu Qatada Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Different view: Abu Qatada is wanted on terrorism charges in Jordan

British politicians and commentators have celebrated the agreement with Jordan that finally allowed the Home Office to deport Abu Qatada from Britain. But how has the move been seen in the country he has been sent to?

The treaty between Britain and Jordan has been described by some in the UK as something of an oddity - a symbol of how the British government has mobilised its diplomatic, legal and parliamentary apparatus in a bid to finally win the latest round in a lengthy battle to deport one man.

The Jordanians take an entirely contrary view of the Treaty on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters between Jordan and the United Kingdom, and they prefer to use its full name.

This is because they want it to be seen as a normal treaty: important, but perhaps boring in its technicality.

'Two-way treaty'

The Jordanians emphasise that the treaty makes no mention of Abu Qatada, and that it will allow Jordan to extradite wanted individuals to Britain just as it will allow Britain to extradite wanted individuals - any wanted individuals - to Jordan.

Mutual assistance; mutual respect.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Corruption is a bigger issue for many Jordanians and has sparked protests

Some Jordanian newspapers feel that the treaty should never have been necessary. Britain wanted to deport Abu Qatada, and Jordan wanted him back as a man who it has twice convicted in absentia on terrorism charges and who it wishes to re-try in person.

The only complication, said the Jordan Times, was the obstructiveness of British and European courts, which insulted Jordan by questioning its word: Jordan said that no evidence obtained through torture would be used in the trial - it ratified the International Convention Against Torture and amended its laws accordingly.

The country closed its most infamous detention centre, and embarked on a general programme of prison improvement. Yet, some Jordanians feel, the British courts called these efforts a lie.

The paper complained that: "The British court system is now under scrutiny, faith and confidence in its judgement shaken."

Others questioned the wisdom of Abu Qatada's return, lest it encourage terrorism. One contributor to the Al-Dustour newspaper labelled him "the Mufti of Al-Qaeda".

Any notion that the treaty might have been about Abu Qatada alone attracted strong condemnation when it came to passage through Jordan's elected House of Representatives.

"If the objective of this treaty is to return Abu Qatada, then we do not want it," was how the state news agency Petra quoted the opposition.

Other deputies expressed disdain for the suggestion that Jordan was somehow doing a favour for Britain - its former imperial power.

Yet ultimately the treaty passed both houses of Jordan's parliament to receive assent from King Abdullah II, all within a month.


Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour and his justice minister both sought to reassure deputies that the treaty was not about Abu Qatada in particular.

Instead, they argued that the agreement would serve as a useful legal weapon in the fight against an issue that ordinary Jordanians find far more emotive - corruption.

Jordan lacks the oil and gas that has turned some of the region's monarchies into wonderlands.

The country is overwhelmingly arid and acutely resource poor. It hardly ever rains between May and November, and water is rationed by the week in the capital, Amman.

Jordan imports most of its food, as well as 98% of its energy, and the government strains its budget by subsidising the cost of both to make them affordable.

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Image caption Jordan has had to cope with many refugees - the latest from the war in Syria

The Bedouin of its southern deserts, with their ways as frugal nomads, are the country's ethnic heart.

The cities of the north have absorbed waves of refugees - from successive wars with Israel, from Iraq, and now from Syria - and these are people who have had to begin again with little or continue to live with almost nothing.

So the issue of corruption sparks deep resentment amongst Jordanians, given the simplicity of the lives they largely live.

Yet the toughness of the politics in their region, and of the conditions in their country, has defined the attitude of most ordinary Jordanians towards Abu Qatada.

They simply care much more about other issues, about the conflicts that surround them and about the costs of living even a peaceful life.

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