Europe court rules terror suspect asset freeze violates fundamental rights

[JURIST] The European Union Court of First Instance [official website] ruled [judgment materials] Thursday that an EU-ordered asset freeze of a Jordanian terrorist suspect lacked judicial review, violating the suspect's fundamental rights. The assets of Muslim cleric Abu Qatada [BBC profile] were frozen in 2001 pursuant to a UN Security Council [official website] resolution, which specified entities and persons who must be subjected to such restrictive actions. Qatada, also known as Omar Mohammed Othman, was one of the enumerated subjects in the resolution, identified by his alleged association with Osama bin Laden. The court held that the regulation prohibiting the use of his assets was "adopted without furnishing any guarantee enabling him to put his case to the competent authorities," constituting an unjustified restriction of his right to property. The court only annulled the regulation as it applied to Qatada and ordered the Council of the European Union [official website] to pay costs.

Qatada was granted political asylum by the UK in 1994. When he was arrested in 2001 under the Prevention of Terrorism Act 1989, police seized a sizable sum of money in various currencies for which no explanation was given. Later in 2001, he went into hiding to avoid being arrested and detained under the then-proposed Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001. He was arrested again in 2002 and held until March 2005 when he was released pursuant to a House of Lords judgment declaring his detention sans trial unlawful. In February, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] ordered the UK to pay £2,500 in damages to Qatada after determining that his imprisonment violated the European Convention on Human Rights [official website]. Despite his previous grant of asylum and fears of torture and persecution, UK Law Lords in February ruled that Qatada could be returned [JURIST report] to Jordan to face terrorism charges. The February decision overruled an April 2008 Court of Appeal decision blocking his deportation [JURIST report].

 

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