Theresa May launches fresh attempt to expel Abu Qatada from Britain

  • @NigelpMorris

Theresa May today launched a fresh attempt to expel the radical preacher Abu Qatada from Britain, insisting the Home Office were convinced that his planned deportation was legal.

Successive Governments have been trying for ten years to return Qatada, who has been described as Osama bin Laden’s right hand man in Europe, to his native Jordan.

But his removal has been repeatedly blocked because of fears he will be ill-treated in Jordan or put on trial using evidence obtained by torture.

The Home Secretary, who visited the Middle Eastern kingdom this month, told MPs she believed she had received the necessary guarantees over his treatment.

She said: “We now have the material we need to satisfy the courts and continue with deportation.”

Qatada was arrested at his London home by UK Border Agency officials today and appeared before a hearing of the Special Immigration Appeals Commission. He was back behind bars last night.

The earliest he can be removed is April 30, but he is expected to launch a new legal challenge to his deportation that will delay deportation well beyond that date.

Mrs May acknowledged that an appeal by Qatada could take “many months”, but insisted the Government was confident of success in the lengthy legal wrangle.

“We can soon put Qatada on a plane and get him out of our country for good,” she said.

Mrs May said she and David Cameron had had talks with King Abdullah of Jordan and his officials to secure the assurances required by the courts.

"The result is that we now have the material we need to satisfy the courts and to resume deportation," she said. She also said she would be "examining the processes and procedures used in France, Italy and elsewhere to see if our own legislation might be changed to enable us to deport dangerous foreign nationals faster".

To the anger of the Government, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) blocked Qatada's deportation earlier this year. It found that sending him back without assurances that allegations obtained by torture would not be used against him would be a “flagrant denial of justice”.

Lawyers for the Home Secretary will now need to convince the Strasbourg-based courts that it such a guarantee is now in place.

Qatada’s legal team is expected to appeal, possibly even taking the case back to the ECHR.

He was released from Long Lartin high-security jail in Evesham, Worcestershire, on February 13 after applying for bail following the ECHR ruling.

Qatada, who is 51 and also known as Omar Othman, was convicted in his absence in Jordan of involvement with terror attacks in 1998 and now faces a retrial in the country.

He has also featured in hate sermons found on videos in the flat of one of the September 11 bombers.

Shami Chakrabarti, director of civil rights group Liberty, said: “Credit must go where it is due and it is due to the Home Secretary today.

"We don't always agree on the application of human rights but she seems to understand that if the Government does not respect the rule of law, why should anyone else?”