Abu Qatada's presence here is reassuring, claims top Liberal Democrat Justice Minister Lord McNally said the legal protection preventing Abu Qatada's deportation is 'part of what makes us a civilised society'Seven-year bid to deport him has cost taxpayers
500K in legal aid aloneGovernment has made a new attempt to
deport the radical preacher
03:38 GMT, 12 March 2013
08:14 GMT, 12 March 2013
Britain's inability to deport hate preacher Abu Qatada shows the controversial Human Rights Act is ‘working’, a senior Liberal Democrat minister has claimed.
In an astonishing intervention, Justice Minister Lord McNally said the legal protection given to the man once dubbed Osama bin Laden’s right-hand man in Europe was ‘part of what makes us a civilised society’.
His comments came as the Government made a fresh attempt to deport the 52-year-old radical preacher, who is facing trial in his native Jordan for terrorism offences.
Intervention: Minister of State for Justice Lord McNally, pictured left, claims the legal protection preventing the deportation of radical cleric Abu Qatada, pictured right, is what makes Britain a 'civilised society'
Home Office lawyers said he was a ‘truly dangerous individual’ whose views ‘encompass the legitimacy of attacking people in the UK’.
The seven-year bid to deport Qatada, who claimed asylum in Britain in 1993, has cost taxpayers more than 500,000 in legal aid alone.
Tory critics, including David Cameron and Theresa May frequently highlight his case as evidence that the Government should scrap Labour’s Human Rights Act, or even withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights.
But Lord McNally said people should be ‘reassured’ by the fact that even terror suspects like Qatada were protected by the law.
He told BBC Radio Five’s Pienaar’s Politics show: ‘The fact is, in my mind, if the Human Rights Act occasionally comes in favour of somebody who is not very likeable in terms of what they have done or who they are… that to me is a reassurance, that if even he is given the protection of our law and Human Rights Act then all the more the rest of us are going to be protected by it as well.
Legal battle: The seven-year bid to deport Muslim cleric Abu Qatada has so far cost taxpayers more than 500,000 in legal aid
‘The law is there to protect us all and
sometimes it protects those least worthy of its protection, but the fact
its protection is there is part of what makes us a civilised society.’
Asked about calls for the Human Rights Act to be scrapped he added: ‘If
it’s working, why try and fix it I don’t see the great travesties being
done.’ Tory MP Peter Bone last night condemned Lord McNally’s
Mr Bone said: ‘He is completely wrong.
It is quite extraordinary that we should have a justice minister who
holds these views, which many people will find offensive.
Lord McNally argued that the public should be 'reassured' that everyone is protected by the law
‘We should be putting Qatada on a plane tonight and worrying about the legal consequences later – that is what the vast majority of British people want us to do. The only people supporting him are terrorists, rich barristers and the Liberal Democrats.
‘The fact that we have a justice minister who holds these views just confirms my fears that we are in coalition with a bunch of clowns.’ The row came as lawyers for the Home Secretary asked the Court of Appeal to overturn a decision to allow Qatada to remain in the UK.
The Special Immigration Appeals Commission (Siac) decided last November that Qatada could not lawfully be deported to Jordan, where he was convicted of terror charges in his absence in 1999.
Siac judges ruled there was a ‘real risk’ that evidence obtained by torture, could be used against him in a retrial in Jordan.
He was released from prison subject to a 22-hour curfew regime. The security bill for monitoring him is estimated at 100,000 per week.
James Eadie QC, appearing for Mrs May yesterday, said the decision could not stand because Siac had taken an ‘erroneous’ view of the position in Jordan.
Mr Eadie said the evidence was that ‘Jordanian law prohibits clearly and expressly the use of torture and the reliance on any statement obtained under duress, including torture’.
Lawyers for Qatada said the appeal should be refused as Mrs May’s legal advice was wrong and there was a genuine risk that confessions obtained by torture would be used against their client.
The appeal came three days after Qatada was arrested for breaching bail conditions.
The court was told he had been detained after mobile phones and communication devices were found in his home as part of an ongoing Metropolitan Police investigation.
Reserving judgment, Lord Dyson said the court would take time to consider its decision.