Britisk grensepoliti har arrestert den radikale imamen Abu Qatada mens innenriksdepartementet forbereder seg på å deportere ham til Jordan. Den britiske regjeringen skal ha inngått en avtale med Jordan som tilfredstiller Den europeiske menneskerettsdomstolen (EMD), og det er ventet at innenriksminister Theresa May vil redegjøre for både avtalen og utsendelsen i en hasteerklæring til parlamentet. Deportasjonen av Qatada, som omtales som al Qaidas åndelige ambassadør i Europa, vil i så fall markere slutten på britiske myndigheters årelange kamp for få å sendt hatpredikanten ut av landet.
I januar ga syv dommere ved EMD Abu Qatada medhold i at han ikke kunne utvises fra Storbritannia til Jordan, hvor han vil bli stilt for retten for terrorisme. Jordanske myndigheter har lovet at han ikke skal utsettes for tortur, men EMD fryktet at det kunne bli brukt bevis mot ham skaffet gjennom tortur av andre. Dommerne konkluderte med at en utvisning dermed ville være et brudd på Den europeiske menneskerettskonvensjonen. Det vakte alminnelig raseri da Qatada, som er ansett som en sikkerhetstrussel mot landet, kort etter ble satt fri fra fengsel og kunne gjenoppta livet på fellesskapets regning.
Kritikken mot myndighetenes manglende evne til å deportere den radikale islamisten ble ikke mindre da det forrige måned ble kjent at kostnadene for å overvåke Qatada ville beløpe seg til nærmere 50 millioner kroner i året.
Abu Qatada was taken into custody this morning and has been told the Home Office is finally preparing to send him back to Jordan.
The radical cleric smirked as he was arrested at his north west London home just hours before Home Secretary Theresa May is due to make an emergency statement in the Commons on the controversial plan to deport him.
She is expected to announce that a deal has been struck with the Arab nation to ensure his removal from Britain – marking the end of a long and controversial battle for the government.
Last month, it emerged the cost of keeping watch on Qatada on bail comes to about £5million a year – a hundred times more than keeping him in a high-security jail.
Has has been subject to a surveillance operation costing a £100,000 every week, as authorities monitored his every move to ensure he did not escape.
A team of undercover police officers arrested Qatada at his £400,000 family home near at 12.30pm. His family were said to be paying £1,900 a month rent which they funded through benefits.
Five smartly dressed officers, including one female officer, were in the house for around 15 minutes before emerging with Qatada, who left the house smiling and was not handcuffed.
Dressed in white trainers and a full length grey tunic, he was taken to a black people carrier by the officers – one of whom seemed to be carrying a black bin liner of possessions.
A Home Office spokesperson told MailOnline: ‘UK Border Agency officers have today arrested Abu Qatada and told him that we intend to resume deportation proceedings against him.
‘The Home Secretary will make a statement to Parliament later.’
It comes after Labour yesterday accused the Government of allowing ‘too much drift and delay’ in the case.
Europe’s human rights judges have ruled Qatada cannot be deported to Jordan without assurances that evidence gained through torture will not be used in his upcoming terror trial.
Mrs May will address MPs this afternoon as the deadline for any appeal to the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights passes at midnight.
She is not expected to appeal as the Home Office has been working to secure a deal with the Jordanian government in which it would give guarantees that torture evidence would not be used.
But any move to deport him with these assurances is likely to be challenged in court by Qatada’s legal team.
Qatada – described by a judge as Osama bin Laden’s right-hand man in Europe – was released from Long Lartin high-security jail in Evesham, Worcestershire, on February 13 after applying for bail following the ECHR ruling.
The Strasbourg-based court found that sending Qatada, 51, back without such assurances would be a ‘flagrant denial of justice’.
In her bid to deport Qatada, the Home Secretary must also show a judge she has made progress in the case by the beginning of next month or risk Qatada being freed from his stringent bail conditions.
The Home Office has said it is making ‘good progress’ in talks aimed at getting the necessary assurances.
‘We are confident that, when a deal is done, we will have the assurances we need to resume the deportation process which will see Qatada put on a plane,’ a spokesman said.
‘In the meantime, it would anyway be impossible to resume the deportation before April 17 because a legal injunction prohibits us from doing so.’
But yesterday, Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper called for Mrs May to explain the steps she was taking to deport the cleric, who was described by a judge as Osama bin Laden’s right-hand man in Europe.
‘The Home Secretary needs to explain urgently to Parliament what she is doing to get Abu Qatada deported, and to make sure there are strong enough safeguards to protect public safety in the meantime,’ Ms Cooper said.
‘The Home Secretary should have acted sooner in preventing the release of Qatada in the first place.’
She went on: ‘The Home Secretary needs to get an urgent grip of this case.
‘She needs to explain what assurances she still believes are required before she can take action, why she hasn’t successfully progressed Qatada’s deportation and why she failed to act sooner to possibly prevent his release in the first place.’
Her comments come after Keith Vaz, the chairman of the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee, claimed that Jordanian officials have given the Government ‘all the assurances it needs’ to deport Qatada.
Qatada, who is considered a threat to the UK’s national security, was released under some of the toughest conditions imposed since the September 11 terror attacks.
He is free to leave his London home for two one-hour periods each day, is banned from taking his youngest child to school, and cannot talk to anyone who has not been vetted by the security services.
He is also banned from visiting mosques, leading prayers, giving lectures or preaching, other than to offer advice to his wife and children at his home.
Qatada, also known as Omar Othman, was convicted in his absence in Jordan of involvement with terror attacks in 1998 and has featured in hate sermons found on videos in the flat of one of the September 11 bombers.
Since 2001, when fears of the domestic terror threat rose in the aftermath of the attacks, he has challenged, and ultimately thwarted, every attempt by the Government to detain and deport him.