Feb
17

Theresa May to visit Jordan for Abu Qatada deportation talks

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Home secretary will travel to Jordan very soon, sources say, after Home Office minister James Brokenshire flew out this week

Theresa May is to travel to Jordan very soon to continue talks with the Jordanian government on the possible deportation of Abu Qatada, but there is no sign that the Muslim cleric will be removed from the UK in the near future.

Abu Qatada was released on bail this week following a ruling by the European court of human rights, and the home secretary is seeking commitments from the Jordanians that prosecutors will not use evidence obtained by torture in any retrial.

Home Office sources suggested that if credible assurances could be presented to the European court, it would then be possible to restart deportation proceedings that in turn would allow Abu Qatada to be re-detained. He is under a 22-hour curfew at present.

The Home Office minister James Brokenshire was in Jordan this week and reported to David Cameron on the progress of his talks. The fact that May is willing to travel as well suggests some progress is being made.

The sources stressed there seemed a good likelihood that even if credible assurances were provided and he was rearrested, Abu Qatada’s lawyers would appeal to the special immigration appeals commission (Siac), and then through the British legal system, opening up another legal quagmire. It was stressed that there was no prospect of the UK simply ignoring the European court’s ruling.

If Abu Qatada took his case back through the UK courts, it would be open for the European court to refuse him an appeal on the grounds that the British and Jordanians had met the terms of its previous ruling.

The court ruled that in two previous trials of Abu Qatada in Jordan, conducted in absentia in 1993 and 1994, evidence was used that was obtained by torture. The Jordanians have insisted they do not use torture and have written this undertaking into the country’s constitution.

Home Office sources were silent on whether Brokenshire had been told the Jordanians had enough other evidence to prosecute Qatada on terrorism charges.

The UK could appeal against the European ruling to the court’s grand chamber, but this is a dangerous course since the issue would be examined by fresh judges looking at the entire case again.

Britain had thought it had sealed Abu Qatada’s deportation by signing a memorandum of understanding in 2005 with the Jordanians that committed both sides to monitor the treatment of any prisoners deported to Jordanian cells from the UK.

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