UK minister to fly to Jordan to discuss Abu Qatada

AP News
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Posted: Feb 08, 2012 1:24 PM
UK minister to fly to Jordan to discuss Abu Qatada

Britain's security minister will fly to Jordan to discuss ways to deport extremist cleric Abu Qatada, the government said Wednesday.

James Brokenshire will seek assurances from the Jordanian government the controversial cleric, previously accused by a court of close ties to al-Qaida, would receive a fair trial in Jordan where he faces terror charges, the Home Office said.

Britain wants to deport Abu Qatada to Jordan, but has been thwarted by the European Court of Human Rights, which ruled that there is a risk that evidence obtained through torture would be used against him in a Jordanian court.

Abu Qatada has been imprisoned for over six years while he fights deportation and is due to be released on bail in Britain next week. The government has said it will do all it can to deport him. He has not been charged with crimes in Britain.

Prime Minister David Cameron had been scheduled to speak to King Abdullah of Jordan about the case by telephone Wednesday, but was forced to postpone the call. His office said he would hold a conversation with the Jordanian monarch before Brokenshire's visit.

Cameron told lawmakers Wednesday the government is "doing everything we can to get this man out of the country. The absolutely key thing to do is an agreement with Jordan about the way that he will be treated."

A Jordanian military prosecutor said Abu Qatada would face retrial in Jordan for his purported role in earlier bomb plots there. He has been convicted in absentia in Jordan.

Sameeh Khreis, a former Abu Qatada defense lawyer, said that under Jordanian law, a defendant tried and convicted in absentia is entitled for retrial once captured.

Jordanian officials privately reject British assertions that London has sought assurances for a fair trial to Abu Qatada, insisting that the Jordanian judiciary is a respectable institution capable of conducting fair trials and issuing unbiased rulings.