Personal Immigration

Abu Qatada cannot be deported to Jordan

The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that Omar Othman (Abu Qatada) cannot be deported to Jordan while there remains a real risk that evidence obtained by torture will be used against him.

The applicant, Omar Othman, is a Jordanian national who was born in 1960 near Bethlehem, then part of Jordan. He is currently detained in Long Lartin prison, Worcestershire, England. He is suspected of having links with al-Qaeda.

Mr Othman arrived in the United Kingdom in September 1993 and made a successful application for asylum, in particular on the basis that he had been detained and tortured by the Jordanian authorities in 1988 and 1990-1. He was recognised as a refugee in 1994, being granted leave to remain until June 1998.

While his subsequent application for indefinite leave to remain was pending, he was detained in October 2002 under the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act, and in August 2005 he was served with a notice of intention to deport him to Jordan.

Mr Othman appealed against that decision. He had been convicted in Jordan, in his absence, of involvement in two terrorist conspiracies in 1999 and 2000. Mr Othman claimed that, if deported, he would be retried, which would put him at risk of torture, lengthy pre-trial detention and a grossly unfair trial based on evidence obtained by the torture of his co-defendants.

The UK Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) dismissed his appeal, holding in particular that Mr Othman would be protected against torture and ill-treatment by the agreement negotiated between the UK and Jordan, which set out a detailed series of assurances. SIAC also found that the retrial would not be in total denial of his right to a fair trial.

The case then went to the Court of Appeal and the House of Lords, and in February 2009 Mr Othman lodged an application with the European Court of Human Rights. The European Court has now ruled that in the absence of any assurance by Jordan that the torture evidence would not be used against Mr Othman, his deportation to Jordan to be would be a violation of Article 6 (right to a fair trial).

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