British lawyer: Qatada would go to Jordan if government OKs treaty

May 10, 2013 at 8:20 AM
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LONDON, May 10 (UPI) -- Radical cleric Abu Qatada would return to Jordan if the Jordanian government approves a treaty on use of evidence gained by torture, a British court learned.

Abu Qatada's lawyer, Edward Fitzgerald, told a court Friday of his client's decision to voluntarily return to Jordan during a hearing on whether the man, once described al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden's right-hand man in Europe, should be released on bail, the BBC reported.

The British government has tried repeatedly to deport Qatada to Jordan, where he faces terrorism charges after being convicted in absentia in 1999.

While he hasn't been charged in Britain, the government has been trying to deport Qatada, also known as Omar Othman, for nearly eight years.

Last year, the Special Immigration Appeals Commission, which hears matters on national security-related deportations, ruled Qatada shouldn't be removed from Britain because of fears that evidence obtained by torture would be used against him in Jordan. The government lost its appeal of the ruling and failed to have the matter heard by the Supreme Court.

Last month, the government signed a mutual assistance treaty with Jordan that includes guarantees on fair trials. British Home Secretary Theresa May said the treaty would provide the courts assurance that Qatada would receive a fair trial in Jordan.

In court, Fitzgerald said the treaty "is clearly designed to meet the requirements laid down ... as to evidence admissible at a retrial, if there is a retrial."

"If and when the Jordanian Parliament ratifies the treaty," Fitzgerald said, "Mr. Othman will voluntarily return to Jordan."

The BBC said Jordan's Information Ministry said the approval process could take months.

Fitzgerald told the court his client should be released on bail, noting, "There comes a point when detention goes on for too long."

The hearing was adjourned until May 20.

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