In a surreal turn of events, the radical Islamic preacher Abu Qatada, who has been imprisoned for more than 6 years in Britain on terrorism charges, will be granted bail and will probably have even those restrictions removed within two years. The problem lies with a European court ruling which demands that Abu Qatada cannot be deported back to his home country Jordan because he might be tortured. No one else seems to want him (unsurprisingly) and so he will be free to walk the streets of Britain once again, preaching his hatred and incitement.
It is simply not acceptable that Britain is unable to deport radical Muslim cleric Abu Qatada who “poses a serious risk to our national security”, Home Secretary Theresa May said today.
Mrs May said she disagreed with a senior immigration judge’s decision to bail Abu Qatada yesterday, which means he will be free and walking his child to school within a week.
“The right place for a terrorist is a prison cell; the right place for a foreign terrorist is a foreign prison cell far away from Britain,” Mrs May said.
The radical Islamic preacher will be back on the streets within days after he was granted bail, despite even his own defence team suggesting he posed a “grave risk”.
Mr Justice Mitting granted Qatada bail after the European Court of Human Rights ruled that he could not be deported to his native Jordan.
This ruling lays open the risk that other terror suspects will also go free in Britain:
The ruling raised fears that other terror suspects could also successfully avoid deportation via the European courts.
Hate preacher Abu Hamza and five others are waiting for a judgement in their extradition cases. They have been accused of running extremist camps and websites, or plotting terror attacks.
Hamza, who lost his hands in an explosion in Afghanistan and is blind in one eye, could follow Qatada in winning bail if Strasbourg rules a potential jail sentence in the US would breach his human rights.
Among the five others awaiting the ruling is Haroon Aswatone of Hamza’s trusted associates, who is wanted for planning to start a jihadi training camp in Oregon.
The Telegraph brings some background to the complicated legalities that have led to this sorry decision:
The bail conditions will be similar to those set in 2008, with the cleric confined to his home for all but two one-hour periods each day. He will also be allowed to take one of his five children to school.
Restrictions on his movement, however, could be lifted if the Home Secretary fails to show within three months that progress is being made in negotiations with Jordan regarding his extradition
David Anderson, the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, said Qatada could only be subject to a new type of control order known as a TPIM for a maximum of two years before it expires.
But the new TPIM orders mean that unless Qatada is handed back to Jordan, he could only be held under restricted conditions for two years.
“With people like that you have to do one of two things, you either put them on trial in this country if he has committed offences under our law, and goodness knows we’ve got plenty of those offences, or if we can’t do that, then the next best solution is certainly deportation and I don’t think that should be ruled out,” Mr Anderson said.
“It’s been indicated he will be released on these extremely stringent bail conditions. That’s to give the incentive … to the Home Secretary and the Government to put in place a suitable arrangement with Jordan.
“If it can’t, let’s assume putting him on trial on this country is out of the question, because let’s assume he hasn’t committed any offences under the law of this country, then you’re down to the TPIM, the control order replacement.”
Asked whether it was a case of deporting Qatada or letting him go free within a couple of years, Mr Anderson replied: “Yes, subject to the possibility of a TPIM and that is for the Home Secretary to decide and for the courts to monitor.”
Earlier, the Attorney General said the hands of the Government were tied by the rule of law.
Despite the absurdity of a present and dangerous risk in releasing Abu Qatada, there are those in Britain, like Justice Secretary Ken Clarke, who are so liberal-minded that they consider it preferable to listen to Europe rather than protect their own people, and who are inordinately proud of Britain’s kowtowing to Brussels even though it might bring disaster upon their own heads.
Mr Clarke added: “No one says he has committed a crime, and he has not been charged with anything which is difficult to make a case for his deportation. We will see what happens. I am not going to comment on a case which is still otherwise going through.
“This was a British judge who gave him bail. The newspapers that bash the European Court of Human Rights bash the European Court of Human Rights all the time. Actually the judgement they are objecting to was by a British judge.
“The Court of Appeal found in Qatada’s favour, the Supreme Court found against him, the Court of Human Rights found in his favour again but with further Jordanian assurances that he would not be tortured.”
Mr Clarke’s comments were apparently at odds with Theresa May, the Home Secretary, who later told MPs that “the Government disagrees vehemently with Strasbourg’s ruling”.
Shame on the British justice system for not managing to bring sustainable charges against such a known hate preacher. As Peter Oborne writes:
Abu Qatada certainly seems to be a thoroughly undesirable and nasty piece of work. Tapes of his sermons were discovered in a flat used by one of the Twin Towers bombers. He is accused of being the spiritual leader of al-Qaeda in Europe, and is sought in his native Jordan for an attempt to murder tourists. Not merely that – he is on record as justifying suicide-bombing and, it is said, preaching anti-Semitism.
On top of everything else, there is the fundamental, stinking hypocrisy of a man who appears to have a contempt for human rights making use of the best British lawyers to guarantee his own freedom to live with his large family on British benefits.
Most of the above is an offence under the British legal system, which regards incitement to murder and hate crimes as very serious offences. Indeed, if even a fraction of what is claimed is true, it would surely have been an easy matter to press charges against Qatada and have him sent to jail for a long period.
In which case, why were suitable charges never brought against him?
But this has not been the approach taken by the British Government. We have preferred not to press charges, instead holding him under the various forms of house arrest made possible by recent anti-terrorism legislation. More recently, we have attempted to deport Qatada to Jordan, but this strategy has rightly fallen foul of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg – which refuses to countenance the idea that any individual should be deported to a country that practices torture.
Mysteriously, however, this decision has been condemned as an outrageous assault on British sovereignty, while the Strasbourg Court is under attack as an alien construction, hostile to British history, law, freedom and our national identity.
It is time that the case was heard for the defence. Certainly, it should be conceded that those who claim protection from the European Court are often suspicious or unattractive men and women, and many of them foreigners. Abu Qatada is a near perfect example of this kind of phenomenon. But the brutal truth is that obnoxious and unpopular figures are exactly those who most desperately need the protection of the law.
This is a ridiculous statement. It is British citizens who most desperately need the protection of the law against terrorists like Abu Qatada. But Oborne rescues himself somewhat in that he adds:
If he is guilty of the charges laid at his door, he is not, at bottom, guilty of terrorism. He is a common criminal, and should be treated as such. If this alleged hate preacher is such a menace, he should be brought to trial, asked to confront the evidence, and sent to jail.
Which brings us back to the beginning – why were these charges never brought up?
The Daily Mail reports further:
Keith Vaz, chairman of the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee, said most people would be ‘astonished by this decision considering Abu Qatada is wanted on terrorism charges in eight countries’.
Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper said: ‘The Home Secretary needs to explain urgently what action she is taking on the national security implications of this judgment.
‘Abu Qatada should face terror charges in Jordan, and the Home Secretary needs to urgently accelerate discussions to make that possible.’
Robin Simcox of the Henry Jackson Society, a foreign policy think tank, said: ‘Today’s decision is a disgrace.
But, if Abu Qatada is to be released, the Government should place him under a Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measure, the successor to control orders. He is far too important an Al Qaeda ideologue not to be under surveillance.’
Qatada, also known as Omar Othman, featured in hate sermons found on videos in the flat of a September 11 bomber.
And here is Abu Qatada’s glorious resume for all to see:
Abu Qatada has variously been described as ‘Al Qaeda’s spiritual leader in Europe’, ‘Osama bin Laden’s right-hand man in Europe’, ‘the most significant extremist preacher in the UK’ and ‘a truly dangerous individual’.
The Jordanian father of five, whose real name is Omar Mahmoud Mohammed Othman, claimed asylum when he arrived in Britain in September 1993 on a forged passport.
He was allowed to stay and preach his extremism, and was accused of calling on British Muslims to martyr themselves in a holy war on ‘oppression’.
A 1995 ‘fatwa’ he issued justified the killing of converts from Islam, their wives and children in Algeria. In October 1999 a sermon in London called for the killing of Jews and praised attacks on Americans. And the same year he was convicted in his absence of planning terror attacks in Jordan.
When he was arrested in February 2001 he was found in possession of £170,000 in cash, including £805 in an envelope marked ‘For the mujahedin in Chechnya’.
Videos of his sermons were found in the Hamburg flat used by some of the 9/11 hijackers.
As fears of a domestic terror threat grew after those attacks, he thwarted every attempt by the Government to detain and deport him; he went on the run to avoid being detained without trial or charged under new anti-terror laws.
After 10 months on the run he was discovered in a council house in south London, arrested and taken to Belmarsh high-security prison.
Qatada was released in March 2005 and put under a 22-hour home curfew designed to limit contact with other extremists.
He was rearrested months later but ministers were thwarted in their efforts to deport him because of fears he would be tortured if he returned to Jordan.
As the court battle continued, Qatada was released in June 2008 to live in his £800,000 council house in west London before being rearrested that November over fears he would breach his bail conditions.
In 2008, the Court of Appeal ruled in Qatada’s favour, saying there were reasonable grounds for believing he would be denied a fair trial in Jordan because evidence against him could have been extracted through torture.
But in a landmark judgment in February 2009, five Law Lords unanimously backed the Government’s policy of removing terror suspects from Britain on the basis of assurances from foreign governments.
To paraphrase a Hebrew idiom: Britain has a frog stuck in its throat and can neither swallow it nor spit it out. I hope for all British citizens’ sake that this man can be deported.