Home secretary hopes to break deadlock over deportation of radical Islamist cleric
The home secretary, Theresa May, has started a three-day visit to Jordan in an attempt to break the deadlock over the deportation of the al-Qaida terror suspect Abu Qatada.
May, who will be in Amman until Wednesday, is hoping to make sufficient progress to at least return the radical Islamist cleric to Long Lartin maximum security prison pending his deportation to Jordan.
Abu Qatada was released last month on bail under conditions that amount to virtual house arrest and include a 22-hour curfew after the European court of human rights ruled that the deportation could not go ahead while he faced the risk of a trial based on evidence obtained by torture. Abu Qatada has been called Osama bin Laden’s right-hand man in Europe and is still regarded as a threat to British national security.
Mr Justice Mitting of the special immigration appeals commission (Siac) gave the home secretary three months to show that “demonstrable progress” was being made in his deportation or face his release without restrictions.
May is hoping to secure fresh diplomatic assurances that he will face a fair trial in Amman on his return. They will have to be robust enough to convince Siac judges that they will apply in practice.
The home secretary’s talks this week follow an intervention by David Cameron, who phoned the king of Jordan to seek “an effective solution” to the case. The Home Office minister James Brokenshire, who visited Amman to pave the way for this week’s talks, said on Sunday: “I think the discussion with the Jordanians were actually very, very useful. There was a strong recognition from the Jordanian government as to the responsibility they have for one of their own citizens.
“Yes, of course there are detailed legal issues that I discussed when I was in Jordan that are being worked through with our officials and lawyers … It’s just working through some of the legal detail, which is why we judge it is important to get this right so when we go back to the special immigration court we can present the strongest possible case to see Qatada removed rapidly.”
Abu Qatada’s lawyers have warned that any fresh diplomatic deal will simply trigger a new round of litigation in the London courts. The most the home secretary can expect to hope for is that Abu Qatada is returned to Long Lartin maximum security jail pending the outcome of those proceedings.
He has spent nearly nine years detained or deprived of his liberty under curfew without charge in Britain.
from Alan Travis