Labour hits out at Abu Qatada deportation delay

 

Home Secretary Theresa May has allowed "too much drift and delay" in the Government's bid to put radical cleric Abu Qatada on a plane back to Jordan, Labour said today.

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper called for Mrs May to explain the steps she was taking to deport the cleric who was described by a judge as Osama bin Laden's right-hand man in Europe.

It comes after the Home Office said it was making "good progress" in talks aimed at getting assurances from Jordan that evidence gained through torture would not be used against Qatada in his upcoming terror trial.

The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that deporting the 51-year-old without such assurances would be a "flagrant denial of justice".

Ms Cooper said: "There has been too much drift and delay in the way the Home Office has handled this case since January.

"The Home Secretary needs to explain urgently to Parliament what she is doing to get Abu Qatada deported, and to make sure there are strong enough safeguards to protect public safety in the meantime."

She went on: "The Home Secretary should have acted sooner in preventing the release of Qatada in the first place."

Her comments come after Keith Vaz, the chairman of the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee, claimed that Jordanian officials have given the Government "all the assurances it needs" to deport Qatada.

Ms Cooper said: "Theresa May now needs to be clear and transparent with the British public.

"If the Jordanians have provided the assurances required to continue with Qatada's deportation, as the chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee has said he was told, what problem exists that the Home Secretary hasn't told us that prevent him being back behind bars?

"The Home Secretary needs to get an urgent grip of this case.

"She needs to explain what assurances she still believes are required before she can take action, why she hasn't successfully progressed Qatada's deportation and why she failed to act sooner to possibly prevent his release in the first place."

Last week, the Home Office denied it had reached any deal with the Jordanian government.

But a spokesman said: "We are confident that when a deal is done, we will have the assurances we need to resume the deportation process which will see Qatada put on a plane.

"In the meantime, it would anyway be impossible to resume the deportation before April 17 because a legal injunction prohibits us from doing so."

PA

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