The Government's anti-terror strategy suffered a blow yesterday when Abu Qatada, a preacher described as "Osama bin Laden's right-hand man in Europe", won a court battle to stay in Britain.
The Home Office was also forced to abandon plans to deport 12 Libyans suspected of terrorism after the Court of Appeal gave a damning verdict on promises they would not be tortured in their home country.
Tony Blair laid plans to expel terror suspects after the July 7 London bombings by negotiating "memorandums of understanding" (MoUs) with Middle Eastern and north African countries that they would not be harmed. But the policy is in ruins after the court blocked deportation of Abu Qatada to Jordan and of two Libyans.
Britain signed MoUs with Jordan, Libya and Lebanon in 2005, but has struggled to reach agreement with Algeria, the home country for several terror suspects.
Abu Qatada has been convicted of terrorism in his absence in Jordan. He has been in jail in Britain since 2001 as the UK seeks to deport him. But the court registered fears yesterday that evidence that might he used against him in Jordan would be obtained by torture. It also backed the appeals of two Libyans – AS and DD – on the basis that the Government failed to give enough weight to the risk of torture.
Abu Qatada remains in custody as the Home Office contemplates a new appeal against the court decision.
The pressure group Human Rights Watch said: "These cases show the Government should stop trying to deport people to countries whose justice systems are deeply tainted by torture and other abuses."