The fifty-one year old Omar Othman, Abu Qatada al-Filistini, a Palestinian refugee with Jordanian nationality has spent the last six years in various maximum security prisons for Category A offenders. Since his original detention in October 2002, every attempt to deport him to Jordan has been frustrated. The law lords ruled three years ago that he could be sent back but the Strasbourg decision overturned that ruling.
The Home Office clashed openly with judges on Monday when it criticised a decision to free on bail, Abu Qatada, who is accused of posing a grave threat to British national security. The decision by Mr Justice Mitting will see Abu Qatada, once described as Osama bin Laden’s righthand man in Europe, walk out of Long Lartin maximum security prison in Worcestershire after more than six and a half years in detention without trial – the longest period in modern times [see footnote].
The Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) has imposed some of the most draconian bail conditions seen since 9/11, including a twenty-two hour curfew, but this did little to assuage the anger of the Home Office ministers or politicians from all parties at the decision.
The clash takes the battle between politicians and the judiciary into new territory as Abu Qatada is a major international terror suspect. He was first detained without trial in Britain under the quashed Belmarsh regime nearly a decade ago, in October 2002.
The decision taken by the high court judge at SIAC follows the ruling by the European court of human rights that he could not be deported toJordan because he would face a “flagrant denial of justice” – a retrial based on evidence obtained through torture. Abu Qatada had been detained under immigration laws for the past six and half years pending his deportation to Jordan. Read the rest of this entry »