One can't help thinking that this is just a new form of rendition using the courts. No doubt it will be appealed. Perhaps these steps are being taken in cahoots with Washington who would like nothing better than to see what can be extracted through torture. With the evidence against this cleric it would seem that the government would have a good case for a trial that could send him to prison but obviously that is not what is wanted.
U.K. court allows deportation of Islamic cleric
By Jane Perlez Published: February 26, 2007 LONDON: A British court ruled Monday that the government could deport a radical Islamic cleric to Jordan, setting the stage for the deportation of other foreign terror suspects in Britain to countries with poor human rights records.
The case of Abu Qatada, which has been watched closely in Washington, is the first involving foreigners in Britain accused of posing threats to national security whom the government wants to deport rather than put on trial.
Qatada, 45, a Jordanian citizen of Palestinian background, has been described by the British as a spiritual guide to Al Qaeda. Tapes of his preaching encouraging violence against the West were found among the belongings of Mohamed Atta, the leader of the Sept. 11, 2001, hijackers, and he met with Richard Reid, a London-born convert to Islam who tried to blow up a flight from Paris to Miami in December 2001 using explosives hidden in his shoes.
Qatada is regarded as one of 10 foreign-born extremists who the government says have helped radicalize young British Muslims, encouraging them to carry out terror attacks. A court judgment in 2004 described Qatada as being "at the center in the United Kingdom of terrorist activities associated with Al Qaeda."
The ruling by the Special Immigration Appeals Court rejected an appeal by Qatada in which his lawyers argued that the cleric would be subject to torture while in prison in Jordan and would not be granted a fair trial there. Qatada's lawyers said they would appeal the decision.
Human rights advocates criticized the ruling on the ground that it set a precedent for allowing suspects to be turned over to foreign countries where torture is used to extract evidence.
A lawyer for Human Rights Watch, Julia Hall, said that a memorandum of understanding between Britain and Jordan that torture would not be used on terror suspects returned to Jordan was an insufficient guarantee.
In addition to Jordan, the British government has negotiated agreements with Lebanon and Libya that are intended to prevent the torture of suspects returned to their homeland.
Hall said an August 2005 agreement between Britain and Jordan empowered a Jordanian nongovernmental organization to monitor Qatada's conditions in prison once he returned to Jordan and to report on any abuses. He is wanted in Jordan on criminal charges.
But Hall described the group assigned to monitor him, Al Adaleh Human Rights Center, as "a tiny organization, a local organization that has no influence with the government."
In documents presented to a parliamentary committee, the British government said it was working with the Adaleh Center, established in 2003, to improve its capacity.
Hall said the British government had spent tens of thousands of pounds to strengthen the fledgling group. But this investment would not overcome what the United Nations special rapporteur on torture, Manfred Nowak, found to be "institutional impunity" of the Jordanian intelligence services regarding torture, Hall said. Nowak's report on torture in Jordan was issued by the United Nations in January.
The British government hailed the decision Monday, saying it confirmed that a policy to deport foreign terror suspects was the right one. The government has focused on the new policy since the subway and bus attacks in London in 2005 that killed 56 people, including the four bombers.
"We welcome the decision of the Special Immigration Appeals Commission that Abu Qatada presents a threat to our national security and can be deported," John Reid, the home secretary, said. "We are also pleased that the court has recognized the value of memoranda of understanding."
For the Bush administration, Qatada's deportation to Jordan would mean easier access to a terror suspect with potentially valuable information.
The issue of torture to extract evidence from terror suspects returned to their home countries for interrogation became an issue last year when the Canadian government found that Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen was sent to Syria by U.S. officials because of alleged links to Al Qaeda, was tortured while in a Syrian prison for 10 months.
Arar was cleared of all terrorism charges by a Canadian commission of inquiry last year. The commission found that even though a Canadian diplomat visited Arar during his imprisonment in Syria, Arar was too afraid of retribution from prison officials to tell him of the torture against him.