Judges reject Abu Qatada decision claim

 

High Court judges today rejected a “gloomy prognosis” that there could be another year or more of litigation before a final decision is made on deporting radical preacher Abu Qatada.

They said it was reasonable to believe Qatada's removal could take place "within a reasonable time".

The judges were giving their reasons why the man described as a key al-Qa'ida activist and "a truly dangerous individual" must remain in detention.

Last week the judges upheld a decision of the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC), made on May 28, refusing Qatada bail while he continues to fight removal to Jordan where he faces trial on terrorism charges.

Edward Fitzgerald QC, acting for Qatada, argued the cleric had been in detention for seven years - "the longest period of administrative detention as far as we know in modern English history".

He said detention in a high security prison had now become "disproportionate and unlawful".

The QC accused SIAC judge Mr Justice Mitting of failing to take proper account of the fact that the length of detention was likely to become even more disproportionate and unreasonable because the deportation battle was far from over.

SIAC holds its latest hearing in October. Mr Fitzgerald suggested the battle would continue to drag on afterwards for months to come - and even be referred back to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

Today Lord Justice Hughes and Mr Justice Silber said there had been "no error of any kind" when SIAC decided against releasing Qatada during the Olympics, when police and security services were fully stretched, because it would be "exceptionally problematic" and risky for the public.

The judges also ruled the risk of Qatada absconding in the run-up to the next SIAC hearing also justified his continued detention.

Conceding that the period of detention to date was "enormously lengthy", the judges said that was attributable "to the length of the litigation process, to which both sides have contributed, but also to the considerable importance of the issues".

The judges then added: "We do not agree with Mr Fitzgerald's gloomy prognosis that another year or more of litigation is to be expected after the fortnight's hearing in SIAC and the subsequent announcement of its decision, probably in or about November...

They ruled: "Mr Justice Mitting was entitled to conclude that there was a reasonable prospect of deportation taking place within a reasonable time."

The judges said Qatada could appeal from the SIAC ruling, but any appeal would have to be on points of law.

Whilst the "ingenuity of counsel" in devising such points was not to be underestimated, the Court of Appeal could determine very quickly whether they were arguable.

Nor did they accept that it was "an inevitability" that the European court would want to hear the case again.

Robin Tam QC, acting for the Government, had told the High Court that Qatada was "a truly dangerous individual" who was "at the centre in the UK of terrorist activity associated with al-Qa'ida" and said: "At no time has the claimant disputed the national security case against him."

Mr Tam told the court it was "fanciful" to suggest Qatada does "not pose any risk of absconding" and added he had an ability to "go to ground" and in the past had "gone out of sight for almost a year".

Qatada says that if he faces a new trial in Jordan there is a real risk that evidence obtained through torture will be used against him, in breach of his human rights.

However, in May, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that his appeal against deportation would not be referred to its grand chamber.

The Home Office says it is confident that assurances from Jordan that his rights will not be breached will allow him to be removed "as quickly as possible".

PA

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected