The British government was on Tuesday refused permission to take to the Supreme Court its decade-long legal battle to deport Abu Qatada, Jordanian cleric once described as Osama bin Laden’s “right-hand man” in Europe.
Rejecting the government’s application, the Court of Appeal upheld a previous verdict of the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (Siac) that Qatada could not be deported as there is a risk that he would not get a fair trial in Jordan. It said evidence obtained through torture could be used against him.
During the hearing, the government argued that Siac had taken an “erroneous” view of the situation in Jordan. Its lawyers said Jordan had banned torture and the use of evidence obtained under duress.
The court, while accepting that Qatada was “regarded as a very dangerous person”, said the issue was whether Qatada’s human rights could be breached if he was deported.
“A state cannot expel a person to another state where there is a real risk that he will be tried on the basis of evidence which there is a real possibility may have been obtained by torture. That principle is accepted by the Secretary of State and is not in doubt,” it said.
The Home Office said it was “disappointed’’ but would seek permission to appeal directly to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court can reconsider the Court of Appeal’s ruling if it is convinced that the case involves a “point of law of general public importance”.
In a statement, the Home Office said it remained “committed to deporting this dangerous man and we continue to work with the Jordanians to address the outstanding legal issues preventing deportation”.
Qatada, whose real name is Omar Othman, fled to Britain in 1993 claiming that he was tortured by Jordanian authorities. He was convicted in absentia for his alleged involvement in two major terrorism plots in Jordan.
He has spent several years in British jails despite never having been charged.