Extremist wins case against expulsion


A self-declared Islamic extremist who was once described as Osama bin Laden’s right hand in Europe must be freed from jail and cannot be deported for trial to Jordan, a UK immigration court has ruled, to the fury of British ministers.

British home secretary Theresa May had won guarantees from Jordanian authorities that no evidence gathered during torture would be used against Abu Qatada al-Filistini, who is suspected of having planned bombings there.

The European Court of Human Rights barred the home secretary from deporting him earlier this year because it believed that torture evidence would be used – a view shared yesterday by the UK’s Special Immigration Appeals Commission.

Last night the home secretary insisted she would appeal the judgment, though she will have to get permission to do so first from the High Court because the immigration court refused leave to appeal.

Abu Qatada al-Filistini will be subject to a 16-hour-a-day curfew, but allowed to leave his home from 8am to 4pm daily, though the home office unsuccessfully wanted him to be able to leave for just two hours every day.

During the hearing, home office lawyers had argued that Jordan’s constitution now included “an express prohibition” on the use of torture evidence in trial, but the immigration court found they had failed to convince that “no real risk” existed.

Clearly angry, the home secretary told MPs yesterday that Abu Qatada was “a dangerous man, a suspected terrorist”, adding that the court had accepted that the Jordanians would “do everything within their power to ensure that a retrial is fair”.

He has been convicted in Jordan in absentia of planning bombings in western Europe and Israel, she said, and British courts had already ruled that he “provides a religious justification for acts of violence and terror”.

The battle to deport him has taken seven years and cost £1 million (€1.25 million) so far. The timing of yesterday’s judgment is particularly awkward for the British, who are due to host the Jordanian monarch, King Abdullah, in London next week.