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British govt challenges Qatada ruling

LONDON: Britain’s interior ministry said yesterday that it has applied for permission to appeal against a decision by judges to block the extradition of terror suspect Abu Qatada to Jordan.
“We confirm that we have submitted our grounds for appeal,” a Home Office spokesman said.
A judge will consider the bid to challenge last month’s move by Britain’s Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) blocking the extradition over fears that evidence obtained through torture could be used in Abu Qatada’s trial.
The radical Islamist cleric — dubbed Osama Bin Laden’s right hand man in Europe — was released on bail following the SIAC ruling, in a severe blow to the British government.
British authorities have kept him in custody for most of the last decade and repeatedly tried to send him to Jordan to face trial.
Abu Qatada was convicted in absentia in Jordan in 1998 for involvement in terror attacks, but both British and European judges have accepted his argument that evidence obtained by torture might be used against him in a retrial.
Prime Minister David Cameron said last month that he was “completely fed up with the fact that this man is still at large in our country.”
Abu Qatada, a Jordanian of Palestinian origin in his early 50s, is currently under curfew 16 hours a day and is wearing an electronic tag, but he is free to leave his home in northwest London between 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 pm.
The European Court of Human Rights ruled earlier this year that he could not be deported while there was a “real risk that evidence obtained by torture will be used against him” in a possible retrial.
Home Secretary Theresa May ordered his extradition anyway after Jordan gave assurances that he would be treated fairly.
But SIAC, a semi-secret panel of British judges that deals with national security matters, agreed last month with the European judges that he should not be deported, and he was freed on bail.
The commission said statements from Abu Qatada’s former co-defendants Al-Hamasher and Abu Hawsher may have been obtained by torture and created a risk that any trial would be unfair.
The government can only challenge the ruling if it is found that there were legal problems with SIAC’s ruling.
The cleric, whose real name is Omar Mohammed Othman, arrived in Britain in 1993 claiming asylum and has been a thorn in the side of successive British governments.
Videos of his sermons were found in the Hamburg flat used by some of the hijackers involved in the September 11, 2001 attacks. He has also defended the killing of Jews and attacks on Americans.
A Spanish judge once branded him the right-hand man in Europe of the late Al-Qaeda leader although Abu Qatada denies ever having met Bin Laden.