The British Government on Wednesday lost one more round in its decade-long legal battle to deport Abu Qatada, the controversial cleric once described as Osama bin Laden’s “right-hand man” in Europe, to his native Jordan where he faces terror charges.
The Home Secretary Theresa May faced embarrassment after the Appeal Court unanimously upheld a ruling of an immigration tribunal that Qatada could not be deported as there was a risk that he would not get a fair trial in Jordan and evidence obtained under torture to convict him in 1999 could be used against him again.
The court accepted that Qatada was “regarded as a very dangerous person” but held that it was not “a relevant consideration” under human rights laws. It said that the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (Siac), which in November ruled against his extradition, had been right to conclude that “impugned statements” could be used against him.
“Siac was entitled to conclude that there is a real risk that the impugned statements will be admitted in evidence at a retrial and that, in consequence, there is a real risk of a flagrant denial of justice,” it said.
The Home Office sought to put a brave face saying it was “not the end of the road” and the government remained “determined” to deport Mr Qatada.
“We will consider the judgement on Abu Qatada carefully and plan to seek leave to appeal. In the meantime we continue to work with the Jordanians to address the outstanding legal issues preventing Abu Qatada’s deportation,” it said referring to the government’s efforts to obtain an assurance from Jordan that evidence gained through torture would not be used against him.
London Mayor Boris Johnson described the judgement as “hugely disappointing”.
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.