Abu Qatada arrested, but deportation could take months

Apr 17, 2012

Theresa May says Jordan has offered assurances that will allow cleric to be removed from UK

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ABU QATADA, the extremist cleric who was freed from prison in February, has appeared before a court where he was told that the government intends to deport him to his native Jordon on 30 April. However, Home Secretary Theresa May has told MPs that the case is likely to take months.

Qatada, real name Omar Othman, was arrested earlier today and taken before the Special Immigration Appeals Commission. The UK government wants to return him to the maximum security Long Lartin prison in Worcestershire while his case is considered.

Qatada was only released from the prison in February on extremely strict bail conditions after the European Court of Human Rights ruled that he could not be deported to Jordan because of the risk that evidence obtained under torture would be used against him in a terrorism trial.

The Special Immigration Appeals Commission subsequently ruled that if the government was unable to extract the necessary assurances from Jordan, then the bail restrictions on Qatada would have to be lifted.

Home Secretary Theresa May told the House of Commons this afternoon she now has the assurances she needs to be able to deport Qatada.

"We now have the material we need to satisfy the courts and continue with deportation," she said. However she warned MPs to be patient. “Resuming [Qatada’s] deportation might still take time. Processes must be followed and the rule of law must take precedent,” she said, adding that she knew her fellow Conservative MPs would like to put him on a plane “this afternoon”, but “in reality we simply could not do this. It would not just be ministers doing this. We would be asking the police and others to act illegally”.

As the Mole pointed out earlier today, the deportation could take many months: Abu Qatada could appeal to the European Court once more.

However, the re-arrest of Qatada was welcomed by most MPs, while some commentators, perhaps, jumped the gun a little. Ed West wrote in The Daily Telegraph: "[Qatada will] be missed. And what with Omar Bakri in Lebanon and Abu Hamza soon to be spending the rest of his days in a supermax, the glory days of radical clerics may soon be over. Not to worry - they’ll be plenty more, I imagine."

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I was at the English Defence League demo about Qatada yesterday when we got news that Teresa May was making an emergency statement to the Commons. And if he isn't deported, we'll be back again and again and again, in the name of the victims of 9/11 and 7/7 who never had the opportunity to ask the government for fair treatment.