No assurances offered over Abu Qatada trial

 

A Jordanian prince has refused to give assurances over whether radical cleric Abu Qatada would get a fair trial if he were deported to Jordan.

Qatada has been released from jail under strict bail conditions while the Government seeks assurances that evidence gained through torture would not be used in any trial against him if he were sent back.

But the 51-year-old cleric, once described by a judge as Osama bin Laden's right-hand man in Europe, could be freed from his bail terms in just three months if Home Secretary Theresa May fails to show significant progress is being made in talks with Jordan.

Prince El Hassan, the uncle of Jordan's King Abdullah, told BBC News: "I would like to say this is a country that has never taken the life of a political opponent of the regime.

"But if this man has committed crimes, which is presumably why he is being held in England, I don't know what kind of court one has to offer to the Europeans. Does it want a juvenile court?"

When the BBC's George Alagiah told the prince that the authorities wanted a court in which evidence brought about by torture was not admissible, the prince replied: "That is rich coming from a country that believed in rendition agreements."

He added: "This is essentially a British European conversation and I don't think democracy means that we have to appeal to every single European parliamentarian."

Qatada was released from Long Lartin high-security jail in Evesham, Worcestershire, on Monday after applying for bail when human rights judges in Europe ruled he could not be deported without assurances from Jordan that evidence gained through torture would not be used against him.

As security minister James Brokenshire visited the Jordanian capital of Amman for talks this week, Qatada was let out under some of the toughest conditions imposed since the September 11 terror attacks.

He is free to leave his London home for just two hours a day, is banned from taking his youngest child to school, and cannot talk to anyone who has not been vetted by the security services first.

Qatada is also banned from visiting mosques, leading prayers, giving lectures or preaching, other than to offer advice to his wife and children at his home.

Last week, Prime Minister David Cameron told King Abdullah of the "frustrating and difficult" position Britain was in over its efforts to deport the Islamist radical.

But Ayman Odeh, the Jordanian legislative affairs minister, has said the country had passed a constitutional amendment in September to ban the use of evidence obtained through torture.

Qatada, also known as Omar Othman, was convicted in his absence in Jordan of involvement with terror attacks in 1998 and has featured in hate sermons found on videos in the flat of one of the September 11 bombers.

Since 2001, when fears of the domestic terror threat rose in the aftermath of the attacks, he has challenged, and ultimately thwarted, every attempt by the Government to detain and deport him.

Last month, the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights ruled that sending Qatada back to face terror charges without assurances that evidence gained through torture would not be used against him would be a "flagrant denial of justice".

Mr Justice Mitting, chairman of the Special Immigration Appeals Commission, ruled last week that Qatada should be bailed after six-and-a-half years in custody and gave the Home Secretary three months to show significant progress had been made in the talks or risk Qatada being freed without conditions.

PA

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