Radical Islam cleric Abu Qatada wins appeal against deportation

Chris Parsons

Terror suspect Abu Qatada was dramatically allowed to stay in the UK today after winning an appeal against his extradition to Jordan.

The Islamist preacher, described as Osama bin Laden's right-hand man in Europe, won a legal victory in Central London today, in a deportation saga which has cost the UK government nearly £1m in legal fees.

Despite the Government declaring that it 'strongly disagreed' with the ruling, the Jordanian cleric has again avoided deportation after thwarting officials' attempts to get him on a plane.

The decision will come as a huge blow to Home Secretary Theresa May, who said Qatada's latest legal victory over the British Government was 'deeply unsatisfactory'.

Abu Qatada is facing a retrial on terror charges after he was convicted in his absence in Jordan in 1998 for involvement in terror attacks.

The radical cleric's lawyers won the right for him to stay on UK soil after successfully arguing that he won't get a fair trial in his native Jordan.

Britain had moved to send him to Jordan after interior minister Theresa May was given assurances by the Jordanian authorities that no evidence gained through torture would be used against him in a retrial on his return.

A previous hearing on Qatada's appeal had heard that his plea against deportation 'bore all the hallmarks of a last-ditch argument'.

The Special Immigration Appeals Commission handed down its judgement on Qatada today shortly after noon, with the Home Office announcing straight away it was seeking leave to appeal the decision.

The Home Secretary told the House of Commons on Monday afternoon: "It's deeply unsatisfactory that Abu Qatada has not already been deported to Jordan.

"It's also deeply unsatisfactory that the European Court of Human Rights continues to move the goalposts.
"The Government has been doing everything it can to get rid of Abu Qatada and will continue to do so."

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) had ruled earlier this year that the 51-year-old could not be deported while there was a "real risk that evidence obtained by torture will be used against him".

But when the British immigration commission heard Abu Qatada's appeal last month its leader, senior judge John Mitting, said that some of the evidence against him was "extremely thin".

The news of Qatada's success prompted a flurry of outraged reaction, with many taking to Twitter to voice their displeasure that the radical cleric had won another legal battle against the Government.

Author and journalist Tony Parsons tweeted: "Bitterly ironic that Abu Qatada gets to stay in the UK the day after Remembrance Sunday - brave men fought for freedoms we have given away."

Lord Sugar, meanwhile, posted to his 2.46m followers: "Abu Qatada wins appeal against deportation to Jordan for trial. Means he will claim benefits in UK. Will provide £1m house in Notting Hill."

Abu Qatada has spent most of the last seven years in British jails and is being held in a high-security prison while he fights deportation.

In October Britain extradited another radical Islamist preacher, Abu Hamza, and four other terror suspects at the end of a long legal battle.