The UK Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) on Nov. 12 granted the appeal of Muslim cleric Abu Qatada (BBC profile), blocking his extradition to Jordan, where he is accused of organizing bomb attacks. Qatada has been described as "Osama bin Laden's right-hand man in Europe," and UK officials believe he should remain in prison for national security reasons. While never formally charged with an offense in the UK, he has for years been in and out of custody—either imprisonment or house arrest. The judge stated he did not believe Jordanian authorities would mistreat Qatada, but Jordan allows use of evidence gained as a result of the torture of others, and thus Qatada could not receive a fair trial.
Jordanian authorities had assured the court that they would not use any evidence gained from torture, but the court remained unconvinced. As a result of the ruling Qatada will be released on bail subject to a curfew and other restrictions. Qatada's lawyers stated that any restriction on Qatada's freedom was improper. UK prosecutors were very displeased with the ruling and announced that they plan to pursue an appeal and reiterated that they believed that Qatada was a very dangerous individual.
The SIAC denied bail to Qatada in May. In early February he was released on bail after the European Court of Human Rights blocked his deportation, but he was arrested again in April to begin deportation proceedings [after the UK received assurances from Jordan that his rights would be respected, The Telegraph reports].
Qatada was granted political asylum by the UK in 1994. When he was arrested in 2001 under the Prevention of Terrorism Act 1989, police seized a sizable sum of money in various currencies for which no explanation was given. Later that year, he went into hiding to avoid being arrested and detained under the then-proposed Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act of 2001. He was arrested again in 2002 and held until March 2005 when he was released pursuant to a House of Lords judgment declaring his detention without trial to be unlawful. In February 2009 the ECHR ordered the UK to pay £2,500 in damages to Qatada after determining that his imprisonment violated the European Convention on Human Rights. Despite his previous grant of asylum and fears of torture and persecution, UK Law Lords in February 2009 ruled that Qatada could be returned to Jordan to face terrorism charges. The February decision overruled an April 2008 Court of Appeal decision blocking his deportation.
From Jurist, Nov. 12. Used with permission.