Radical cleric Abu Qatada awaiting deportation ruling

08:16 12 November 2012

Radical cleric Abu Qatada is to find out today if he will be deported to Jordan to face trial.

The man once described by a judge as Osama bin Laden’s right-hand man in Europe is fighting extradition to the Middle East country, where he was convicted of terror charges in his absence in 1999.

Qatada was allowed to stay in Britain in 1994 but the government wants to deport him.

In December 2001, Qatada became one of Britain’s most wanted men after going on the run from his home in Acton, west London. In October 2002, he was arrested by police in a council house in south London and detained in Belmarsh high-security jail.

Jordan has given assurances to Home Secretary Theresa May that no evidence gained through torture would be used against Qatada, but his legal team claim he will not get a fair trial in Jordan.

The Special Immigration Appeals Commission (Siac), which will give its ruling at noon today, heard evidence last month from Professor Beverley Milton-Edwards, who has studied Jordan’s political situation for 25 years.

She said Qatada remained a “controversial” figure in Jordan and a fair trial was unlikely.

“In my view I don’t believe there is any credible evidence that the state security court has engaged in a significant amount of reform to have any confidence of him having a fair trial,” she said.

Tribunal judge Mr Justice Mitting asked Prof Milton-Edwards whether Jordan’s memorandum of understanding with Britain to ensure that Qatada will receive a fair trial could be broken.

Prof Milton-Edwards said that, under the current political and judicial structure, it would be difficult to give “anybody” a fair trial despite international promises or widespread publicity of a case such as this one.

But lawyers for the government have told the hearing that Qatada is “scraping the barrel” in the appeal against his deportation.

Qatada, who is said to have wide and high-level support among extremists, featured in hate sermons found on videos in the flat of one of the September 11 bombers.

He has challenged and ultimately thwarted every attempt by the government over the last decade to put him on a plane.

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