11/10/2012 12:44 BST

Home Office Minister Asked For Abu Qatada 'Pardon' In Deportation Effort

Home Office ministers sought a pardon for Jordanian terror suspect Abu Qatada in a bid to deport him from the UK, a tribunal has heard.

James Brokenshire, the then security minister, asked Jordanian ministers in February if the radical cleric, once described by a judge as Osama bin Laden's right-hand man in Europe, could be pardoned if returned.

Even when Brokenshire was told this was not possible by ministers, the Government had a "plan B" to research when the King of Jordan could issue such a pardon, an immigration appeals tribunal heard.

Anthony Layden, the former British ambassador to Libya who specialises in negotiating diplomatic assurances, revealed details of the talks which took place in a meeting in Jordan on 14 February.

abu qatada

The option of a pardon for Qatada was proposed by a Home Office minister

Under cross-examination by Edward Fitzgerald QC, for Qatada, Layden agreed that the possibility of a pardon for Qatada was explored.

"I think the question of a pardon had been asked earlier and Mr Brokenshire was asking for an answer," Layden said.

The pardon was being sought because the evidence against Qatada was "granted by torture", Layden agreed.

The Special Immigration Appeals Commission (Siac) in central London is hearing Qatada's appeal against deportation after Europe's human rights judges ruled the 51-year-old could not be deported while there was a "real risk that evidence obtained by torture will be used against him".

james brokenshire

Home Office minister James Brokenshire proposed the idea to Jordan

Layden also said simple assurances from the Jordanian government that evidence gained by torture would not be used were never going to be enough to deport him as it was a matter for the prosecutors and the courts, not the government.

The UK Government also asked Jordanian prosecutors if they would give "an undertaking in advance that they would not rely on the statements" gained through torture, but the Jordanians refused, Mr Layden agreed.

An attempt to get the State Security Court to rule on the admissibility of the statements before Qatada is deported was also rejected, he added.

The hearing continues.