Britain mired in row over cleric´s deportation (AFP) AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE) 04/19/12)
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Britain voiced its frustration at the legal tangle in the European
Court of Human Rights preventing London from deporting a radical
cleric, as it hosted talks on taming the court´s powers.
Prime Minister David Cameron vowed to continue efforts to remove Abu
Qatada to Jordan, despite the process being thrown into doubt by the
Islamist´s last-minute and apparently unexpected appeal to the
The opposition Labour Party called the situation a "farce".
It said the government was presiding over "confusion and chaos",
while doubts over Abu Qatada´s future increased the likelihood that
he would be released from jail until they were resolved.
In a rowdy session in parliament´s lower House of Commons, Home
Secretary Theresa May said she still believed he could be deported.
"We´ve always been clear that despite the progress that we have made,
the process of deporting Abu Qatada is likely to take many months,"
she told the House of Commons.
"It should hardly come as a surprise to anybody that Qatada has
chosen to use delaying tactics.
"The government is clear that Abu 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," she said.
"The government has written to the European Court to make clear our
case that the application should be rejected because it is out of
Cameron said he wished he could take Abu Qatada to Jordan in person.
"The home secretary has made clear the issue over the timing, but the
real issue is over the substance -- and that is that this man has no
right to be in our country," he told reporters in Scotland.
"He is a danger to our country and we want to remove him from our
country. However long it takes and however many difficulties there
are, we will get him out.
"I sometimes wish I could put him on a plane and take him to Jordan
myself. But government has to act within the law. That is what we´ll
do. We will get this done."
John Mitting, the judge at the centre of the row, said he could soon
release Abu Qatada.
In a ruling posted on the Special Immigration Appeals´ website, the
judge said "if it is obvious after two or three weeks that
deportation is not imminent", he would reconsider releasing Abu
Qatada, albeit under strict conditions.
The situation threatened to overshadow the government´s efforts to
push through reforms of the European court at a conference of the 47
member nations held Thursday in the southern English coastal resort
Britain has been trying to deport Abu Qatada, who claimed asylum here
in 1993, for more than six years, arguing that he is a threat to
But his removal has repeatedly been blocked by the courts amid
concerns about his treatment in Jordan, where the cleric was
convicted in 1998, in his absence, of involvement in terror attacks.
In the latest such ruling in January, the European court said he
should not be deported due to the risk that evidence obtained from
torture would be used against him on his return to Jordan.
Rather than appeal, the British government decided to seek assurances
from Amman that this would not be the case.
Following months of high-level negotiations, May announced to the
Commons on Tuesday that these assurances had been secured and Abu
Qatada had subsequently been arrested and would be deported.
She acted in the belief that the deadline for the cleric to appeal
against the European ruling had passed on Monday.
But just hours after her statement, Abu Qatada´s legal team lodged
its application, arguing the deadline was in fact on Tuesday.
In a statement, the Strasbourg court said it was now considering
whether Abu Qatada´s appeal request complied with Article 43 of the
Human Rights Convention.
In a letter received at 11:00pm Tuesday in Strasbourg, the cleric
asked for his case to be referred to the court´s Grand Chamber,
believing the January ruling was "wrong to decide that he would not
be at risk of torture if deported to Jordan".
"The panel will decide on whether the referral request complies with
the conditions laid down in Article 43 of the European Convention on
Human Rights for the admissibility of a referral request and, if so,
whether the case should be referred."
The cleric´s case is one of several high-profile disputes between
London and Strasbourg and Cameron has vowed to use Britain´s current
chairmanship of the Council of Europe to streamline the court.
(Copyright © 2012 Agence France Presse. 04/19/12)
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