UK Rules For Deportation Of Abu Qatada - "Bin Laden's right hand man in Europe" - Case timeline
February 18, 2009
February 19, 2009
Send them Back
The Law Lords' ruling ends an absurd stalemate over foreign terrorists
The House of Lords ruling that Abu Qatada, one of the most dangerous extremists arrested afterthe 9/11 atrocities, can finally be sent back to Jordan is a momentous victory - for the Government, for international co-operation in the fight against terrorism and for common sense. It opens the way for the Government to expel a further 11 terrorist suspects who have arrived on largely false pretences, plotted the murder of British citizens and then manipulated the law to escape expulsion.
It has cost time and money to achieve this victory. Abu Qatada, described by a judge as Osama bin Laden's right-hand man in Europe, came to Britain on a forged passport in 1993. Claiming asylum for all his family, he was allowed to stay in 1994. But from then on, he devoted himself to plotting violence against the country that had sheltered him, indoctrinating young Muslims with a perverted version of their religion, preaching sermons of hatred that inspired the 9/11 terrorists and acting as a go-between and financier for al-Qaeda's supporters in Europe.
He went on the run as the Government introduced measures to detain foreign terror suspects. But after his arrest in a South London council house, he became a central figure in the legal imbroglio that prevented the Government deporting him to Jordan, where he has been convicted in absentia of terrorist offences. Along with 13 other foreign suspects, he invoked the European Convention on Human Rights, which forbids the deportation of anyone, however grave the offence committed, to a country where there is a risk of torture. Too dangerous to set free, unwilling to leave voluntarily, they were interned in Belmarsh prison without trial or charge. Their limbo was not only Kafkaesque; it went against the foundation of habeas corpus and necessitated an embarrassing and temporary derogation from the European convention.
The Government should have simply deported them - as other convention signatories did - and challenged the political sense of Article 3 prohibiting such a move. Instead, it waited for a humiliating ruling by the law lords that Belmarsh was untenable, was forced to release Abu Qatada and sought memorandums of understanding from four countries - Jordan, Lebanon, Libya and Ethiopia - that deported terror suspects would receive a fair trial. But Abu Qatada, loudly supported by human rights campaigners, convinced the High Court that the memorandums were meaningless and won the right to remain.
There are two principles at issue. One was articulated yesterday by Lord Hope of Craighead, who said that depriving people of the law's protection because of their beliefs and behaviour, however obnoxious, led to the disintegration of society. The right to a fair trial must be given to everyone. The other principle, however, voiced yesterday by a jubilant Home Secretary, is that society has a right to protect itself and rid itself of those who would harm it. It is absurd to negotiate memorandums with others and then ignore them, jeopardising foreign co-operation in fighting terrorism. It is absurd to keep indefinitely in this country, at taxpayers' expense, those who would harm it. Abu Qatada will now appeal to Strasbourg. It would be absurd if Europe's judges put the interests of a dozen truly dangerous extremists above the security of 500 million Europeans.
Timeline: Abu Qatada deportation case
The key events in the long-running battle by Abu Qatada, the radical preacher, against deportation to his native Jordan
Abu Qatada, who arrived in Britain in 1993 on a false passportFrom Times Online (London) February 18, 2009
September 1993 Abu Qatada, real name Omar Mahmoud Mohammed Othman, arrives in Britain with his wife and three children on a fake passport and claims asylum.
June 1994 Is allowed to stay in Britain.
March 1995 Issues a "fatwa" justifying the killing of converts from Islam, their wives and children in Algeria.
May 1998 Applies for indefinite leave to remain in Britain.
April 1999 Convicted in his absence on terror charges in Jordan and sentenced to life imprisonment.
October 1999 Speaks in London advocating the killing of Jews and praising attacks on Americans.
February 2001 Arrested by anti-terror police over involvement in plot to bomb Strasbourg Christmas market.
December 2001 Becomes one of Britain's most wanted men after going on the run from his home in Acton, West London.
October 2002 Arrested by police in a council house in south London and detained in Belmarsh high-security jail.
March 2005 Freed on conditional bail and placed on a control order.
August 2005 Arrested under immigration rules as the Government seeks to deport him to Jordan.
April 2008 Court of Appeal rules that deporting Qatada would breach his human rights because evidence used against him in Jordan may have been obtained through torture.
May 2008 Granted bail by immigration tribunal but told he must stay inside for 22 hours a day.
June 2008 Released from Long Lartin jail in Worcestershire and moves in to four bedroomed £800,000 home in West London
November 2008 Rearrested after the Home Office tells an immigration hearing of fears Qatada plans to abscond.
December 2008 Qatada's bail is revoked by the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) after hearing secret evidence that the risk of him absconding had increased.
February 2009 House of Lords rules that he can be deported.