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The Islamic cleric known as Abu Qatada can’t be deported from the U.K. to Jordan to stand trial on terrorism charges until judges at the European Court of Human Rights decide whether to again take up his case, the court said.
The Jordanian, whose real name is Omar Othman, won a Jan. 17 ruling from the Strasbourg, France-based court blocking his deportation on the grounds Jordan may use evidence it gained from torture against him.
That ruling led to Qatada’s release from jail in England. He was re-arrested yesterday and his lawyers filed the latest appeal at 11 p.m., the ECHR said today in an e-mailed statement. U.K. Home Secretary Theresa May traveled to Jordan last month to seek assurances from the government that Qatada would receive a fair trial. She said yesterday those meant the cleric will be tried by a civilian court, in public, with the right to call defense witnesses, and so he would be deported.
“Qatada has no right to refer the case to the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights, since the three- month deadline to do so lapsed at midnight on Monday,” the Home Office said in an e-mailed statement today. “His case should be heard in British courts, as the Home Secretary outlined to Parliament yesterday. In the meantime, he remains in custody.”
The cleric, who has denied links to al-Qaeda, was described by a judge in Spain as former al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden’s right-hand man in Europe. A British man was kidnapped and murdered in Niger in 2009 by the terror group’s North African network, which had threatened to kill him if the U.K. didn’t release Qatada.
Qatada’s filing means the “injunction against removal remains in force,” the court said. The so-called referral request goes to a panel, which decides whether the court’s Grand Chamber will hear the request. Referral requests were granted in just 5 percent of the cases since the Panel of Judges was formed in 1998, according to court figures.
Calls to Angus McCullough and Gareth Peirce, U.K. lawyers who have represented Qatada, weren’t immediately returned.
He was granted bail by a British court in February and freed from a high-security prison under a 22-hour curfew.
Qatada’s current conviction in Jordan, from a trial in his absence, will be quashed on his arrival. He will be retried in line with Jordanian laws, the country’s minister of state for media affairs, Rakan Majali was quoted as saying by the state- run Petra news agency. “The Jordanian constitution ensures a fair trial,” he said.
The ECHR ruling is one of a number that have angered Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservative Party, which argues that European judges are interfering too much in British justice and political decisions. Cameron called in January for changes to the court to reduce that interference, and a meeting of the 47- nation Council of Europe in Brighton, southern England, begins today to discuss the future of the tribunal.
The court ruled last week that Abu Hamza al-Masri, an Islamic cleric jailed for inciting murder and racial hatred, can be extradited from Britain to the U.S., dismissing his argument that prison conditions there would violate his human rights.
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