Home Secretary insists Qatada has no grounds for appeal

The Home Secretary Theresa May
The Home Secretary Theresa May Photo: ITV News

The Home Secretary Theresa May has insisted that Abu Qatada will be deported, despite his last minute appeal to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

She said he had no case for appeal, as the Government had abided by the terms set out by the ECHR earlier in the year and had firm assurances from the government of Jordan that he would not be subject to torture or mistreatment.

Earlier in the year the ECHR stipulated that in order to deport Qatada to Jordan the Government had to make sure he would be subjected to a fair trial, and that no evidence obtained from torture would be used against him.

The Home Secretary was called to parliament to explain the "confusion" over the deportation. She said:

Yesterday the European Court of Human Rights informed the Government that late on Tuesday evening Abu Qatada applied for a referral for the judgment of his case to the court's Grand Chamber.

He did so on the grounds that he would be at risk of torture if he returned to Jordan.

The British courts and the European Court itself have found that, because of the assurances we have received from the Jordanian government, there is no such risk.

– Home Secretary Theresa May

The Home Secretary insisted that the appeal by the lawyers of Abu Qatada was made after the deadline to do so expired. May insisted that the deadline expired at midnight on Monday, but did admit the court had no automatic way of rejecting his appeal for this reason. She said:

The fact that he is trying to delay that process by applying for a referral to the Grand Chamber after that deadline had passed and after he had heard our case in Siac (the Special Immigration Appeals Commission) is evidence of the strength of our arguments, the weakness of his and the likelihood of our eventual success in removing him from Britain for good.

– Home Secretary Theresa May
Home Secretary Yvette Cooper
Home Secretary Yvette Cooper Credit: ITV News

In a series of heated exchanges across the house, shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper said the whole incident was a "farce" and that the government should not have allowed the "legal loophole" to emerge.

When the Home Secretary is accused of not knowing what day of the week it is, then chaos and confusion has turned into farce.

– Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper

The Speaker of the House of Commons had to appeal for order several times during the exchange.

May was adamant that she did not get her days or dates confused, but that the lawyers of Qatada were simply using the appeal as another delaying tactic. She said:

It should not come as a surprise to anybody that Abu Qatada has chosen to use delaying tactics, after all he has been doing this since 2001.

– Home Secretary Theresa May

May acknowledged that the court could find that the deadline was midnight on Tuesday, as Qatada's lawyers argued, and admitted that the five judges from the panel of the Grand Chamber of the ECHR are the only ones with the final say.

She said the deportation is likely to take many more months, but insisted it would go ahead and in the meantime the government would continue to build its case.