The radical cleric Abu Qatada can be deported to Jordan to face trial on terror charges, the House of Lords ruled today in a key victory for the government as it attempts to remove terror suspects from the U.K.
The Law Lords said that Abu Qatada, once described as Usama bin Laden’s right-hand man in Europe, could be returned to Jordan despite his fears that he could be tortured.
The five lords also ruled that two Algerian terror suspects could be sent home.
Wednesday’s rulings are a victory for the Home Office’s policy of relying on guarantees from foreign governments that deported suspects will not face torture or inhumane treatment on return home. Including the Abu Qatada case, the Home Office is pursuing 12 deportation cases involving terror suspects in British prisons.
Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, can now begin deportation proceedings against Abu Qatada, currently in a top security jail, and the two Algerians known only as RB and U.
However, Abu Qatada, 48, is expected to remain in the U.K. for up to two years as he is likely to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights in a last attempt to avoid being deported.
“I’m delighted with the Lords’ decision today in the cases of Abu Qatada and the two Algerians ’RB’ and ’U.,' Smith said immediately after the ruling. "It highlights the threat these individuals pose to our nation’s security and vindicates our efforts to remove them. My top priority is to protect public safety and ensure national security and I have signed Abu Qatada’s deportation order, which will be served on him today."
Last year the Court of Appeal blocked Abu Qatada's removal after accepting his argument that he had not faced a fair trial in his absence from Jordan.
He was released on bail, but then re-arrested and returned to prison because security officials said they had intelligence that he was considering fleeing the U.K.