Jordan’s acting information minister Nayef al-Fayez has said that his government shared the UK authorities’ disappointment at the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (Siac) ruling on Monday. Both Jordan and the UK had a special interest in making sure that he was charged for his crimes but under British law, there isn’t even enough evidence to try him in a court.
When Abu Qatada arrived back at his home in London, around lunchtime on Tuesday, a small group of protesters – holding a “get rid of Abu Qatada” placard – gathered outside and chanted, “Out, out, out.”
Earlier this year, judges at the European Court in Strasbourg ruled the cleric – whose real name is Omar Othman – would not face ill-treatment if returned to Jordan, citing assurances outlined in a UK-Jordan agreement.
Crucially, however, the judge did not believe he would get a fair trial because a Jordanian court could use evidence against Abu Qatada that had been obtained from the torture of others, which links into the idea that he cannot be tried in the UK.
On Monday, despite the UK obtaining additional assurances from Jordan, Siac chairman Mr Justice Mitting ruled he was not satisfied Abu Qatada would be tried fairly.
Based on the rulings from the Siac (Special Immigration Appeals Commission, which is a UK court) the Muslim cleric Abu Qatada has been freed on bail.
He was released from Long Lartin prison, in Worcestershire. He has spent most of the last 10 years in custody.
A UK court approved his appeal against deportation after deciding witness evidence obtained by torture might be used at trial in Jordan.
The government believes the wrong legal test was applied and is going to appeal.
“We had received a number of assurances from the Jordanian government – they had even changed their constitution,” a spokesman for Prime Minister David Cameron said.
Home Secretary Theresa May has applied for permission to appeal against a decision to block the removal of Jordanian terror suspect Abu Qatada.
Papers have been lodged with the civil appeals office at the Court of Appeal ahead of a deadline later.
An appeal in this case can be made only on a point of law, which will be difficult because they will have to find a law/laws which he could have potentially broken or ones that support the need for deportation.
The home secretary said at the time of the ruling that she “strongly disagreed” with the judgment, claiming that the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) had applied the “wrong legal test”.
‘Completely fed up’
The radical cleric faces a re-trial in Jordan for allegedly conspiring to cause explosions on Western and Israeli targets in 1998 and 1999. He was found guilty of terrorism offences in his absence in Jordan in 1999.
Security chiefs believe he played a key ideological role in spreading support for suicide bombings. However, they only believe, they don’t have enough evidence or witnesses to prosecute him in the UK, which raises a troubling question; can anyone be judged to have played a role in al-Qaeda and shipped off to a country which is willing to do a deal with the UK and proclaim that the person was indeed somebody they were looking for?
Last month, the Special Immigration Appeals Commission chairman Mr Justice Mitting ruled he was not satisfied that the preacher would be tried fairly in Jordan.
He is the subject of bail conditions that include him being banned from travelling on the Tube, or by train, car, motorbike or bus and from using mobile phones and computers.
Prime Minister David Cameron said he was “completely fed up” at the cleric’s release on bail.
A judge will now consider the home secretary’s appeal application by examining documents on the case. The judge may make a decision, or decide that the application should be dealt with at a court hearing. A decision is expected to be made before Christmas.
If the judge decides to refuse the application, the home secretary can ask a court to reconsider the matter.
It isn’t enough to simply say that “yes, he’s a bad person, we should keep locked up”. We have the rule of law in this country, if we can’t prove that he has broken a law in the UK then how can we have kept him in prison? This seems more about politics than justice trying to be served; the West has in its possession what they believe to be a key part of al-Qaeda and they must be seen to do something about it. Moreover it seems like the government is simply trampling over hundreds of years of legal history just to get this man convicted.