[JURIST] UK authorities led by Home Secretary Theresa May [official website] on Monday challenged a UK immigration decision that effectively blocked Jordanian extradition requests for Muslim cleric Abu Qatada [BBC profile; JURIST news archive]. Qatada is wanted in Jordan on in absentia convictions of organizing and encouraging bomb attacks in 1999 and 2000, but the UK Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) [official website] in mid-November granted Qatada's appeal [JURIST report] and blocked extradition requests due to skepticism that he would not receive a fair trial. The court expressed concern that the Jordanian court would allow the use of evidence extracted from torture of others despite diplomatic assurances [Reuters report] from Jordanian authorities in 2005 that the trial would proceed fairly. Those assurances were memorialized in a Memorandum of Understanding between the UK and Jordan and later partially approved [opinion, PDF] in January 2012 by the European Court of Human Rights [official website]. However, concerns for evenhanded adjudication in light of reports of alleged Jordanian human rights abuses remain. UK officials expressed serious concern after Qatada's successful appeal, as the Muslim cleric has been described as "Osama bin Laden's right-hand man in Europe," and UK officials believe he should be kept in prison for national security reasons although he has never formally been charged with an offense in the UK. Qatada was first detained under British anti-terrorism laws in 2002.
Palestinian-Jordanian Qatada has fought terrorism charges and extradition in court for more than a decade. The SIAC denied bail [JURIST report] to Qatada in May. In early February he was released on bail [JURIST report] after he made an application for bail following the ECHR block of his deportation, but he was arrested again in April to begin deportation proceedings. 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 without trial to be unlawful. In February 2009 the ECHR ordered the UK to pay 2,500 in damages [JURIST report] to Qatada after determining that his imprisonment violated the European Convention on Human Rights. Despite his previous grant of asylum and fears of torture and persecution, UK Law Lords in February 2009 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].