Abu Qatada Bail Row: 'Britain Should Be Able To Deport Radical Cleric' Theresa May Says
Theresa May has insisted the priority for the government is to get Abu Qatada deported, but in a Commons debate wouldn't be drawn on what the next steps might be if that bid to have the cleric sent back to Jordan fails.
The home secretary told MPs that the bail conditions imposed on Qatada were "among the most stringent," but insisted the government would work to have the cleric deported within three months when the bail period expires. She refused to address concerns from Labour that if Qatada were still in Britain after April, any failure to get the bail terms extended could lead to a suspected terrorist being on the streets of London just before the Olympics.
"I continue to believe Qatada should remain behind bars," Theresa May said, "The right place for a foreign terrorist is a foreign prison cell."
To Tory backbench calls of "disgrace" and "sack the lot of them" Theresa May recounted the decision by the European Court of Human Rights to reject Britain's attempt to deport Qatada to Jordan. The ECHR made its decision because it beleived there was a risk any trial in Jordan of Qatada for terrorism offences would rely on evidence obtained by torture.
Theresa May told MPs this decision flew in the face of reassurances by Britain and Jordan that Qatada's trial would not be based on evidence gathered using torture.
Following the decision by the European Court to block Qatada's deportation, a judge in London ruled that he should be released on bail next week. The terms of the bail are house arrest 22 hours a day, no access to the internet and strict rules on visitors. He will however be able to go out for two hours each day to take his son to school.
Labour MPs attempted to draw the Home Secretary on her recent scrapping of control orders and their replacement with TPIMs - which are considered by the government to be less draconian but just as effective as the old control order regime.
"The bail conditions are stronger than TPIMs or control orders," said Theresa May, saying only that "I want to be in a position where we can deport Abu Qatada In time for the Olympics."
Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper urged May to rethink TPIMs and have a robust framework in place in time for the possible expriry of the three-month bail period imposed on Qatada. Theresa May replied saying she would be having high-level talks with the Jordanians to try to get further reassurances which might satisfy the European Court.
The government also has the option of appealing against the decision to bail Qatada, but it hasn't indicated whether this will take place. Theresa May said ministers were considering all legal options.
Many Tories are furious at the decisions of the courts on Qatada - particularly with the European Court for refusing to allow deportation. David Cameron is trying to use Britain's presidency of the European Council to push through reforms of the European Court, although Downing Street has admitted this will be very difficult to achieve.
Theresa May also reiterated her personal preference for Britain having its own independent Bill of Rights, but was clear that this was not currently government policy.
On Tuesday evening Qatada's solicitor Gareth Peirce dismissed the furore surrounding his release as a "small storm raging in today's news".
"He has been on bail before and somehow there wasn't a kerfuffle then. He has been under a control order before and there wasn't a kerfuffle then," she told BBC Radio 4's PM programme.
"I think one has to get a grip on reality here."
She said that if Qatada had been deported to Jordan he would have faced trial solely on the basis of evidence obtained from co-defendants under torture.
"That is something we say - our judges in this country say repeatedly - we will not stomach," she said.
"So it isn't a European opinion superimposed on what the courts of this country would reject. It is the same message."