Abu Qatada talks moving in right direction, says Theresa May

Home secretary positive after visit to Jordan but says more negotiations are needed before any final deportation deal

The home secretary, Theresa May, said official talks over the deportation of Abu Qatada were “moving in the right direction” after she returned to Britain from a three-day visit to Jordan.

But more negotiations are needed before any final deportation deal that would at the minimum ensure that the radical Islamist cleric is returned to a British maximum security prison pending his forced return to Jordan.

“I have just returned from Jordan after constructive talks with the king and several ministers,” said the home secretary.

“Those talks will now continue at an official level and build on the progress I made this week. The Jordanian government has been extremely helpful and will continue to be so. As everyone knows this is a complicated case that has lasted for a decade, but things are moving in a positive direction,” said May.

The home secretary met King Abdullah and the Jordanian prime minister, Awn Khasawneh, as well as other ministers.

Qatada, who was once dubbed Osama bin Laden’s right-hand man in Europe, has been released from Long Lartin maximum security prison and is living in north London under a 22-hour curfew and constant surveillance. His highly restrictive bail conditions will be lifted next month if “demonstrable progress” is not made in securing his deportation to Jordan.

The 51-year-old radical Islamist cleric has been detained or under strict curfew as an international terror suspect in Britain for nearly nine years without trial or charge. He faces the prospect of a retrial for his involvement in two terror attacks more than 10 years ago in Amman for which he was convicted in absentia.

The European court of human rights ruled in January that his deportation could not go ahead while he faced the prospect of a retrial based on evidence obtained by torture. The Strasbourg judges said that the use of torture and evidence obtained by torture was widespread and systemic in the Jordanian criminal justice system.

The Jordanian state news agency, Petra, reported that Jordanian prime minister had also “expressed satisfaction with progress made in cooperation between the two governments on the issue of Jordanian citizen Abu Qatada”.

He did not elaborate on what developments there had been, but “stressed the importance of continued co-ordination on this matter, in a way that respects the independence of judicial systems in Jordan and Britain.”

Amman has pledged that Abu Qatada would get a “fair and transparent” trial if London extradites him to the kingdom

“Jordan respects the rule of law as well as human rights. It has a judicial system that ensures fair trial of anybody on Jordanian territory,” Khasawneh told May.

The state news agency said that May had “hailed Jordan’s improvement in human rights”.

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from Alan Travis

via http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/mar/07/abu-qatada-row-jordan-theresa-may

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