Britain to deport suspected terrorist Abu Qatada

By , Staff writer

Britain's highest court decided Wednesday to order the deportation of Osama bin Laden's "spiritual ambassador to Europe."

Despite claims that he could face torture, Abu Qatada will be sent to Jordan, where he is wanted on terrorism charges. This decision removes a key defense long used by suspected terrorists being held in Britain.

British officials "have described Qatada as an 'inspiration' for terrorists such as Mohammed Atta, the lead hijacker behind [9/11]," reports CNN.

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Welcoming the judgment, UK interior minister Jacqui Smith said: "I'm delighted with the Lords' decision today in the cases of Abu Qatada and the two Algerians 'RB and U'. It highlights the threat these individuals pose to our nation's security and vindicates our efforts to remove them.
"My top priority is to protect public safety and ensure national security and I have signed Abu Qatada's deportation order which will be served on him today. I am keen to deport this dangerous individual as soon as I can." ....
But human rights group Amnesty International said it was "gravely concerned" by the consequences of the decision.
"What is not acceptable is to use suspicion of involvement in terrorism to justify sending someone to face a real risk of torture or other serious violations of their rights," said Nicola Duckworth, Europe and Central Asia Programme Director at Amnesty International, in a statement.
"If these individuals in question are reasonably suspected of having committed a criminal offence relating to terrorism, it is always open to the UK authorities to charge them and give them a fair trial.
"It would be deeply worrying if the Law Lords' decision were to be taken by the UK government as a green light to push ahead with deporting people to countries where they will be at risk of abuses such as torture and unfair trials."

The concerns bring to mind the hubbub over former President George W. Bush's "extraordinary rendition" policy of transferring suspected terrorists to countries that don't have the robust legal protections of the US and Europe.

During the course of Mr. Bush's presidency, Canadian citizen Maher Arar became the poster child for all that was wrong with rendition after he was detained at New York's JFK Airport in 2002 and later sent to Syria where he was allegedly tortured.

In 2006, the Monitor wrote a story about why rendition irked Europeans.

Of course, when President Obama made moves to shut down the controversial US detention facility in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, the Europeans suddenly got cold feet when it came to hosting ex-Gitmo prisioners on their soil.

There was even a movie made in 2007 called Rendition, which dealt with the ethical issues surrounding the policy.

But now, the New York Time reports that President Obama's administration – which has been sharply critical of the Bush administration's war on terror – may continue the practice.

In little-noticed confirmation testimony recently, Obama nominees endorsed continuing the C.I.A.’s program of transferring prisoners to other countries without legal rights, and indefinitely detaining terrorism suspects without trials even if they were arrested far from a war zone.

It will be interesting to see whether Abu Qatada's deportation and Obama's continuation of some of Bush's most controversial anti-terror policies will illicit anything near the level of outrage leveled at Bush during his eight years in office.

With the upcoming release of long-held suspected terrorists from Gitmo, this idea of sending detainees to countries without reliable protections against torture will be tested.

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