x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

UK arrests radical cleric Qatada in new deportation bid

Abu Qatada, who is wanted in his native Jordan on charges of plotting to blow up hotels in Amman in 1998, will face a hearing before an immigration tribunal.

LONDON // The radical preacher Abu Qatada, once described by a judge as "Osama bin Laden's right-hand man in Europe", was re-arrested at his London home yesterday in a fresh bid to deport him to Jordan.

Qatada, who is wanted in his native Jordan on charges of plotting to blow up hotels in Amman, will face a hearing before an immigration tribunal in a move likely to spark his legal challenges.

He was convicted in Jordan in absentia of involvement in terror attacks in 1998, and faces a retrial on his return.

The 51-year-old has been fighting deportation from the UK for six years and, in January, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ordered him to be freed from a British high-security prison on the grounds that evidence against him in Jordan had been obtained by torture.

Since then, the UK and Jordanian governments have been attempting to negotiate an agreement over the provenance of evidence that will satisfy the ECHR and enable the deportation to go ahead.

Theresa May, the home secretary, announced the cleric’s arrest in the House of Commons, to the cheers of MPs, yesterday. But she said his deportation “might still take time”.

“The proper processes must be followed and the rule of law must take precedence,” she said.

Peter Bone, an MP and fellow member of Mrs May's Conservative Party, told the BBC: "All the assurances the European court wanted are there. As the conditions are now met, he should be deported and there should be no hold-up. If his lawyers want to carry on [appealing] afterwards, that's up to them."

A spokesman for Qatada's legal team said they would seek to have him released on bail at a hearing of the Special Immigration Appeals Commission in central London.

The cleric has never been charged with any offences in Britain since he arrived from Pakistan in 1993, claiming political asylum on the grounds that he faced torture in Jordan. But he has been described as "extremely dangerous" by government ministers and a threat to national security.

Since being released from custody in January, he has been allowed to leave his home for only two hours a day and been banned from using electronic devices to communicate with anyone.

foreign.desk@thenational.ae