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Clegg Denies U.K. Proposing Withdrawal From Human Rights Court

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg contradicted his Conservative coalition partners, saying there is no current move for Britain to withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights in order to deport a radical cleric.

Home Secretary Theresa May yesterday suggested the U.K. may temporarily leave the ECHR, allowing it to bypass any moves to block the deportation of Abu Qatada on the grounds he might be at risk from torture in his native Jordan. It follows a 12-year battle to deport the preacher, who has been linked to terrorist network al Qaeda, an allegation he denies.

“No one has proposed and no one has put to me that we should start pulling out of this or that,” Clegg, whose Liberal Democrat party supports human-rights legislation, told LBC radio today. “I have no idea even in theory whether jumping in and out of the ECHR would make the blindest bit of difference.”

Speaking in Parliament yesterday, May said the option of leaving the ECHR should remain on the table. “I think we do need to look at the relationship we have with the European Convention on Human Rights and the European Court of Human Rights,” she said. “We should be looking at all the options and that should include leaving the jurisdiction of the court altogether.”

Clegg said he was “a little bit more optimistic” about the prospect of deporting Qatada after Britain signed an agreement with Jordan designed to reassure courts that evidence obtained through torture would not be used against him.

“It’s not going to happen next Tuesday,” he said. “No doubt there will be some further legal steps. But I think what Theresa May and her team has done has really, really helped increase the chance of getting him out of the country.”

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