Radical Muslim Cleric Wins UK Deportation Case

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A radical Muslim cleric described as an “enormous
risk” to UK security won a last-minute appeal yesterday against
deportation to face terrorism charges in Jordan, in a blow to Britain which has
being trying to remove him for a decade.  A senior judge at a
special London court said there was a risk that evidence obtained using torture
may be used against Abu Qatada and he may not receive a fair trial in Jordan.

The case of Qatada,
a Jordanian cleric of Palestinian origin described by a Spanish judge as
“Osama bin Laden’s right-hand man in Europe”, has been a thorn in the
side of successive British governments.

Britain said
videotapes of his sermons influenced Mohammed Atta, the ringleader of the
September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.

The court ruled
there was a “real risk” that evidence obtained by torture from two
other men  could be used against him in a Jordanian court.

The ruling,
delivered at a special court that deals with security cases, said Home
Secretary Theresa May had been wrong not to revoke an earlier deportation
ruling against Qatada, and allowed his appeal.

The decision is a
setback for May and the Conservative-led administration, both keen to foster an
image of competence and decisiveness on security issues.

The court was
considering whether to grant bail to Qatada, who has been in and out of jail in
Britain since his arrest in 2002, spending seven years in detention without
charge.

Jordan has
convicted him in his absence of sending encouragement to militants there who
were planning two bomb attacks in 1999 and 2000.

May’s department
said in a statement it strongly disagreed with the ruling and would seek leave
to appeal.

Robin Tam, a lawyer
for the British government, told the court that Qatada “remains a man who
poses an enormous risk to national security.”

Britain had argued
that a 2005 deal with Jordan and more recent diplomatic assurances would ensure
that Qatada would obtain a fair trial there.

It had maintained
that the agreements with Jordan were sufficient to overcome a ruling by the
European Court of Human Rights that Qatada could not be deported because of the
possibility that a trial there could use torture evidence.

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