We will deport Qatada, says Clegg
Published 28/03/2013 | 12:01
The Government remains determined to deport the radical cleric Abu Qatada despite the latest legal setback, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has said.
Mr Clegg said ministers would continue to seek strengthened assurances from his native Jordan that the authorities would not use evidence obtained by torture against him.
However he cautioned that the Government could not defy the courts and simply "put him on a plane" to stand trial on terrorism charges.
The Court of Appeal on Wednesday upheld Qatada's latest appeal against deportation on the grounds there was a "real risk" that evidence extracted through torture would be used if he was sent back - despite the assurances given by the Jordanians.
On his weekly radio phone-in on LBC 97.3, Mr Clegg expressed his frustration at the ruling, but said that ministers could not just ignore it and remove the cleric once described as "Osama bin Laden's righthand man in Europe".
"It has got quite big implications if what you're saying is, 'Why can't the Government just act illegally?'" Mr Clegg said. "You just can't I'm afraid. The Government is not above the law, however frustrating these court proceedings are."
Despite the latest setback, Mr Clegg said he believed that Qatada would eventually be expelled from Britain, saying: "We are absolutely determined as a Government to deport this guy. I wish we could do it earlier, we are having to jump through these endless legal hoops but we will get there."
Labour MP David Winnick, a member of the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee, said the authorities should consider whether Qatada can be charged in the UK.
"The fact that the Metropolitan Police have stated that they have found a large amount of extremist material in carrying out searches at the home of Abu Qatada should be grounds for seeing if he can at last be charged in this country," said Mr Winnick.
"The desire to remove Abu Qatada from the UK is hardly a controversial issue, but since the appeal courts have now ruled accordingly, it does seem that in view of the material which has been discovered, serious consideration should be given over whether any UK domestic laws have been broken, particularly while he has been on bail, or indeed more generally."