Abu Qatada, the Islamic cleric the U.K. is trying to deport to Jordan on terror charges, will voluntarily return to his home country if the two governments adopt a treaty that guarantees him a fair trial.
“If that is enacted in Parliament, he will voluntarily return to Jordan,” Qatada’s lawyer, Edward Fitzgerald, told a court in London today.
Home Secretary Theresa May announced a deal with Jordan last month that it won’t use evidence linked to torture in a renewed bid to persuade British courts to allow his removal. Qatada, whose real name is Mohammed Othman and was 52 when he was re-arrested in March, is being held in Belmarsh prison in southeast London.
The U.K. has failed in repeated attempts to deport Qatada because judges say he may not get a fair trial in his home country. The cleric was once described by a Spanish judge as former al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden’s right-hand man in Europe.
U.K. lawmakers hope to approve the treaty by the end of June and it will appear before Jordan’s parliament within a few weeks, Robin Tam, a lawyer for the U.K. government, told a specialist immigration court today. The court delayed a decision on whether Qatada should be granted bail.
Plane to Jordan
“The Home secretary and the prime minister are absolutely determined to put Abu Qatada on a plane back to Jordan,” Christian Cubitt, Prime Minister David Cameron’s spokesman, said in a statement to reporters.
Abu Qatada, who denies any links to al-Qaeda, has been in and out of U.K. jails for more than a decade. He has been released on bail following rulings by U.K. judges and the European Rights Court.
He was most recently arrested in March after the government said he breached bail conditions that included a 16-hour-a-day curfew, a ban from traveling by car or public transport, and prohibitions against him using mobile phones or computers.