Abu Qatada talks in Jordan 'positive' says Theresa May


Talks aimed at ensuring the UK can deport radical cleric Abu Qatada to face terror charges in Jordan have been "positive", the Home Secretary said today.

Theresa May, who is in Jordan for talks with senior government officials until Wednesday, said the Government has more work to do to ensure Qatada can be sent home "once and for all".

Speaking from Jordan, she said she wanted to send Qatada back and bring the situation "to a satisfactory end soon".

Qatada, who is considered a threat to the UK's national security, has been released from jail under a 22-hour curfew while the Government seeks assurances from Jordan that evidence gained through torture would not be used in any trial against him.

Mrs May has less than three months to show a judge she has made progress in the talks or risk Qatada being freed from his stringent bail conditions.

Qatada was released from Long Lartin high-security jail in Evesham, Worcestershire, on February 13 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.

The Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights ruled that sending Qatada, 51, back without such assurances would be a "flagrant denial of justice".

Mrs May said: "We and the Jordanian government will continue to work together to progress this case.

"Jordan has made significant human rights advances, including changes to its constitution. Sadly the court at Strasbourg failed to recognise this.

"Talks today have been positive but we have more work to do in getting the kind of assurances that will allow us to deport Qatada once and for all.

"This case has gone on for over a decade and I want to bring it to a satisfactory end soon."

Her visit comes after security minister James Brokenshire led "useful discussions" with the Jordanian authorities last month and shows how keen the Government is to resolve the issues blocking Qatada's deportation.

Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke added there was a problem with torture in Jordan and that Mrs May was "extremely anxious to get credible assurances from the Jordanians that, if they put him on trial, there won't be evidence used against him that has been obtained by torture".

He told BBC News: "That's a long-standing principle of human rights law. The British courts and European courts, every country that adheres to the European Convention on Human Rights, is highly sensitive about torture.

"You can't have a system of justice with torture involved."

Mr Justice Mitting, chairman of the Special Immigration Appeals Commission, ruled in February 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.

Qatada, described by a judge as Osama bin Laden's right-hand man in Europe, 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 two one-hour periods each day, is banned from taking his youngest child to school, and cannot talk to anyone who has not been vetted by the security services.

He 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.

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.