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UK Politics

Cameron to intervene in attempt to deport radical cleric to Jordan

The Prime Minister will speak to King Abdullah to ensure Abu Qatada receives a fair trial

David Cameron is to intervene personally to resolve the legal deadlock over attempts to deport the radical cleric Abu Qatada to Jordan.

The Prime Minister is to speak directly to King Abdullah of Jordan to obtain guarantees that Mr Qatada would receive a fair trial in the country.

The preacher, once described as "Osama bin Laden's right-hand man in Europe", has been in custody for more than six years fighting attempts to remove him.

His deportation was blocked by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) last month amid concerns that he would be tried in Jordan on evidence obtained under torture.

The Prime Minister is expected to make a rare intervention in an individual case today. A Government source said: "He is absolutely furious. He wants to do everything he can to get this man deported. He is determined to make it happen."

His move will be followed by the visit of a Home Office minister, James Brokenshire, to Syria next week.

The Government remains optimistic that a legally watertight agreement can be reached with the kingdom. A Downing Street spokeswoman said: "The Prime Minister's conversations will help to move this forward so we can be in a position [to] deport Abu Qatada."

An immigration judge ruled this week that Mr Qatada should be freed on bail following the ECHR ruling, but he will be subject to strict bail conditions confining him to his home for 22 hours a day. The judge warned that the conditions would have to be relaxed if Britain fails to reach agreement with Jordan within three months.

The prospect of the cleric walking free has been condemned by MPs of all parties and provoked a media storm.

In the Commons yesterday, Mr Cameron said the current position over Mr Qatada was "completely unacceptable". He told MPs: "It is not acceptable that you end up with a situation where you have someone in your country that threatens to do you harm,that you cannot try, you cannot detain and you cannot deport. The Government will do everything it can working with our Jordanian friends and allies to make sure that he can be deported.

"The absolutely key thing to do is get an agreement with Jordan about the way that he will be treated. This guy should have been deported years ago. Nevertheless, if we can get that agreement with Jordan, he can be on his way."

Mr Qatada, also known as Omar Othman, 51, 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 9-11 bombers. The ECHR ruled that returning him to face terror charges without assurances about the conduct of a trial would be a "flagrant denial of justice". It was the first time the court has found an extradition would be in violation of the right to a fair trial.