Controversial radical cleric Abu Qatada on Tuesday won his long legal battle against being extradited to his native Jordan to face prosecution on charges of terrorism after the European Court of Human Rights ruled that if he was sent back he was likely to be tried on the basis of evidence obtained under torture.
The court threw out the verdict of British courts, which had ruled in favour of his deportation. They had described him as “truly dangerous'' for supporting violent jihad in Europe.
Mr. Qatada, whose real name is Omar Othman, fled to Britain in 1993 after claiming that he was tortured by Jordanian authorities. He was convicted in absentia for his alleged involvement in two major terrorism plots in Jordan but he claimed that the convictions were based on evidence obtained by torturing his co-defendants.
He argued that he would be treated similarly if he was deported.
In Britain, Mr. Qatada has had movements restricted through a “control order” amounting to a house arrest.
Deal with Britain
Jordan agreed on a deal with Britain that he would not be tortured but the court said there had been no assurance from the Jordanian government that he would not face prosecution on the basis of evidence that he claims was extracted by torture.
“Allowing a criminal court to rely on torture evidence would legitimise the torture of witnesses and suspects pre-trial. Moreover, torture evidence was unreliable, because a person being tortured would say anything to make it stop. The court found that torture was widespread in Jordan, as was the use of torture evidence by the Jordanian courts,'' it said.
The court, sitting in Strasbourg, said: “In the absence of any assurance by Jordan that the torture evidence would not be used against Mr. Othman, the court therefore concluded that his deportation to Jordan to be retried would give rise to a flagrant denial of justice in violation of [his right to a fair trial].”
'Not the end of the road'
British Government said it was disappointed but Home Secretary Theresa May said the verdict was “not the end of the road” suggesting that London might appeal.
Rights activists welcomed the ruling.
Keywords: Abu Qatada